United States Arctic Research Vessels
Abstract:Recent concerns with pollution and climate change in the Arctic have led to new monitoring and research programs that require the support of arctic research vessels. This paper reviews the status of U.S. surface and submersible research platforms with a focus on surface ships. During the Science Ice Expedition (SCICEX) program in the 1990s, U.S. Navy submarines were successfully used as research vessels and extensive oceanographic data were collected during under-ice transits. With the decommissioning of the Sturgeon-class submarines, future under-ice research cruises are uncertain and will depend on the availability of other ice-capable submarines or the development of high-endurance automous underwater vehicles. For scientific work on surface research vessels the U.S. has two multi-mission polar icebreakers and a new icebreaking research vessel. In addition, University of Alaska has begun concept designs for replacing the R/V Alpha Helix with an intermediatesized, ice-strengthened ship for oceanographic and fisheries research around the coast of Alaska. Two multi-mission Polar-class Coast Guard cutters, USCGC Polar Star and USCGC Polar Sea, are equipped to serve as oceanographic research vessels and have made important contributions to both Arctic and Antarctic science programs during the last twenty-five years. USCGC Healy, which was designed from the keel up as a research vessel and heavy icebreaker, is capable of supporting large multi-disciplinary studies. The ship, which will be operated as a dedicated Arctic research vessel, was delivered in November 1999, completed ice and science trials in July 2000, and conducted its first dedicated science cruise in the Eastern Arctic in the summer of 2001. The advent of Healy adds significantly to the U.S. science-support capability in the Arctic.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2001
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