Oceanography: WHOI’s Got a Brand New Boat

The new red-white-and-blue vessel that’s joined the Woods Hole waterfront might look unassuming, but it actually has more in common with a spaceship than with any sailboat in Vineyard Sound. The ship is bound for missions to explore uncharted areas and scientific discoveries yet unforeseen – and it is named after one of the pioneers of space exploration.

The Neil Armstrong is the nation’s newest research vessel, part of a fleet of academic ships owned by the U.S. Navy and provided to universities and nonprofit organizations to study the marine environment. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will operate the Neil Armstrong, which clocks in at 238 feet and can accommodate up to forty-four scientists and crew members for voyages of up to forty days.

Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

WHOI has long operated research vessels and coordinated their use with other institutions, including the first American ship specifically built to study marine biology and geology. The Atlantis, a 142-foot ketch-rigged ship, was operated by WHOI from 1931 to 1966. The research vessel Knorr, long visible to Steamship Authority passengers docked at WHOI, traveled more than a million miles (two round trips to the moon) from her launch in 1968 to her retirement in 2014. Her celebrated accomplishments included supporting the team that discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic and discovering life around hydrothermal vents during a mission off South America in 1977.

This past spring Knorr, which was named for a nineteenth-century naval cartographer, was transferred to the Mexican Navy and is now the research vessel Rio Tecolutla.

The Neil Armstrong is part of a new class of vessels; her sister ship, the Sally Ride, will be operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. With advanced technology for surveying the ocean floor and scanning the water column, and more fuel-efficient engines than past research vessels, they are capable of traversing all the world’s oceans, except waters covered in ice.

But no matter how far she roams, the Neil Armstrong has another local connection, beyond her home port. Her chief mate, Derek Bergeron, hails from Oak Bluffs.

Comments (1)

Arnold Krause
San Diego
Congratulation !!!
July 7, 2016 - 10:01pm