Honoring the next stage in Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego's long legacy of ship operations, the United States Navy celebrated two new research vessels on August 17 at a keel-laying ceremony at Dakota Creek Industries Inc. shipyard in Anacortes, Wash.
At the event, the Navy and Scripps celebrated the start of construction for AGOR 28 (Auxiliary General Purpose Oceanographic Research vessel), an "ocean class" research ship that will be operated by Scripps on behalf of the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The event included a dedication of the keel, a key component of a ship's main structure, with leaders from Scripps, the Navy, Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, and Dakota Creek Industries. AGOR 28's sister ship, AGOR 27, to be operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, also was celebrated at the event.
"Gaining exact knowledge and understanding of the oceans is critical to fulfilling today's and tomorrow's Navy and Marine Corp missions," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, who spoke at the ceremony, in an ONR news release. "Research vessels like AGOR 27 and 28 provide us the best opportunity to gather scientific data that is important for understanding the complex ocean properties impacting the performance and capabilities of our Sailor and Marines."
"We look forward to the construction and launch of AGOR 28," said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. "The state-of-the-art research vessel will help the University of California, UC San Diego, and Scripps remain at the forefront of ocean, atmospheric, and earth science."
"AGOR 28 will continue a long and proud history of ocean exploration aboard Scripps research vessels that dates back to the institution's early years," said Tony Haymet, director of Scripps, who welded his initials on a steel plate that will sail with the vessel for the duration of its service life. "As Scripps forges ahead in its second century of discovery, this new breed of ship will support and expand both U.S. Navy and national oceanographic research objectives."
As with other Scripps research vessels Roger Revelle, Melville, New Horizon,and Robert Gordon Sproul, AGOR 28 will allow early career scientists to engage in ship-based science and training to support the next generation of researchers. AGOR 28 will become part of the UC Ship Funds Program, a unique resource that allows University of California graduate students to undertake valuableresearch operations at sea. Scripps, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of joining the University of California, and its ships have been backed by key support from the UC System and UC San Diego.
AGOR 28 will reflect Scripps' singular capacity to support military operations as the Pacific Rim becomes a new primary DOD focus area, and will support U.S. Navy-funded ship operations and new technology development.
Although selected as operator of AGOR 28 in 2010, Scripps has been working to add value to the ship and its instrumentation, such as a Department of Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) award that will fund the installation of a swath-mapping system to image shallow seafloor regions (fewer than 1,000 meters). The multibeam echosounder system will complement a deep-water sonar already planned for the ship.
And in fiscal year 2012 two additional DURIP awards will further enhance AGOR 28's capabilities. One will support installation of two acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) manufactured by Poway, Calif. firm Teledyne-RDI. The profilers are used for measuring currents in the water column beneath the ship. Another award funds the installation of an ultra-short baseline navigation system used for precise tracking of objects such as remotely operated vehicles and autonomous vehicles in the water.
"The Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma will be an outstanding home port for AGOR 28," said Bruce Appelgate, associate director for Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support at Scripps. "The arrival of this new ship marks an important milestone in Scripps' ongoing program of revitalizing our oceanographic research infrastructure. Our researchers and students need and deserve the best possible tools to study the physics, biology, chemistry, and geology of our oceans, and AGOR 28 will serve them capably."
The Nimitz Facility is in the midst of a series of significant upgrades, including new laboratories, engineering support shops, and wharf and pier structures, that will reinforce Scripps preeminence in supporting expeditionary oceanography. With these improvements, Scripps' facilities for seagoing research and education will remain vital in support of the U.S. academic research fleet over the 30-year planned lifetime of AGOR 28, and beyond.
Thousands of scientists, students, and government researchers use Scripps research vessels every year, making them the most widely used oceanographic vessels in the United States. Scripps operates one-fifth of the research vessels in the U.S. academic research fleet, and funded operational days for Scripps ships in 2012 will account for 22 percent of the fleet's capacity. From Jan. 1, 2009 to July 31, 2012, Scripps ships carried nearly 4,200 people to sea. About one-quarter of Scripps ship users are from other U.S. academic institutions, with the remainder made up of researchers from the U.S. Navy, NOAA, other government agencies, international researchers, K-12 educators, and U.S. industry. Scripps has operated research vessels since 1904, and is a charter member of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), which coordinates fleet activities.
Appelgate noted that the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility and its San Diego bayfront location are ideal for supporting research vessels due to their close access to a wide variety of ocean environments offshore, where globally significant research is conducted in coastal and offshore areas. Also significant is the Nimitz Facility's proximity to many of the U.S. Navy's facilities and assets, enabling strong research connections between military and academic scientists.
Appelgate also noted that the construction of AGOR 28 is currently supporting jobs in Washington. When the vessel is launched in 2015 it will support jobs at the Nimitz Marine Facility, which currently employs more than 150 in activities related to ship operations.
"This ceremony represents the beginning of a new class of ships," said Frank McCarthey, the Navy's Auxiliary Ships, Boats, and Craft program manager for Program Executive Office, Ships in a Navy Team Ships Public Affairs news release. "These ships will join the U.S. academic research fleet, supporting critical naval research throughout the world's oceans."