Research vessel New Horizon on the Columbia River in 2009. Photo by Michael Duncan.
R/V New Horizon served the US scientific community from 1978 through 2014. Photo: Michael Duncan, Columbia River, 2009



Scripps Institution of Oceanography's research vessel New Horizon was named in memory of the R/V Horizon which launched the institution's major expeditions. R/V Horizon operated first off California, and then in the world oceans, from 1949 to 1969. New Horizon's design originated in a study made in 1965 by the late Maxwell Silverman, research engineer at Scripps, and Prof. J. R. (Randy) Paulling, Jr., of the Department of Naval Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. They tested modifications of the hull form of then-standard mass-produced Gulf Coast work boats, to find one that would be more suitable for oceanographic work, but still inexpensive to build. Silverman then took one of these hull modifications, and developed specifications for a new class of research ships to replace the aging R/V Horizon and other converted ships used in oceanographic research. This study culminated in a set of ship plans, labeled "NEW HORIZON", which were submitted to the National Science Foundation in conceptual form in September, 1966, and later worked out in greater detail.

These plans included many innovative features such as use of a shallow-draft broad-beam workboat hull with house forward with modifications of hull form for better "sea-kindliness," careful design to keep the admeasured tonnage below 300 tons, provision of standardized bolt-down fittings at 2-foot spacing on deck and within lab spaces, provision for "portability" of deck equipment, and use of standard ISO vans for additional lab spaces, living spaces, explosives magazines, and deck equipment. These "NEW HORIZON" plans inspired federal planning and funding of the class of "intermediate" research ships built over the following decade, even though that ship itself was never built. The plans influenced the design of nearly every oceanographic ship built since that time.

The first of the new class of "Intermediate" ships was the R/V Columbus Iselin, designed by the late Rudolph F. Matzer, and built for the University of Miami with NSF funding. The plans for R/V Columbus Iselin were in turn used later by Matzer as the basis for the design of a new ship for Scripps. The name New Horizon was therefore chosen not only to commemorate the old R/V Horizon but also the landmark "NEW HORIZON" design study, and the "new horizons" being opened by studies of the oceans.

The contract to build New Horizon was awarded to Atlantic Marine, Inc., of Fort George Island, Florida in 1977. The $4 million ship was completed on October 24, 1978 in time to join the Scripps fleet during the year of the institution's 75th anniversary. New Horizon was dedicated on January 25, 1979 at her home berth at Nimitz Marine Facility in San Diego. Most of the funding for construction was provided by the State of California, which is by far the most significant contribution from any state for the construction of an oceanographic research vessel.

New Horizon was capable of multi-disciplinary programs in any part of the ocean except the polar seas, but operates primarily in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. A large proportion of her cruises took place offshore of California and Baja California. The vessel was able to engage in all fields of oceanographic research and was known for her flexibility in design, ability to keep station precisely, and rapid turn-around capability. R/V New Horizon was a UNOLS (University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System) vessel, conforming to UNOLS safety and operating standards.


Built: 1978 Mid-Life: 1996 Length: 170'

  • Beam: 36'
  • Draft (max): 12'
  • ITC Gross Tonnage: 797 tons
  • ITC Net Tonnage: 239 tons
  • Registered Tonnage, Gross: 297 tons
  • Registered Tonnage, Net: 202 tons
  • Loaded Displacement: 1,007 long tons
  • Crew: 12
  • Scientific berthing: 19
  • Main Engines: Two D398, 850 hp Caterpillar Models
  • Bow Thruster: LIPS Variable-Speed Electric Tunnel 200 kW
  • Propulsion: Two, controllable pitch
  • Water Capacity: 2,300 gal
  • Ship Service Generators: Two 230kW
  • Fuel Consumption: 1,000 gal/day (average)
  • Transit Speed For Cruise Planning: 9.0 knots ( variable with conditions -- contact us prior to making speed/time estimates)
  • Minimum Speed: variable to 0
  • Endurance: 40 days max (fuel)
  • Range: 9,600 miles (fuel)
  • Fuel Capacity: 40,000 (planning)
  • Radio Call Sign: WKWB
  • Laboratory Space: 1,265 sq. ft
  • Main Deck Working Area: 1,730 sq. ft
  • Freeboard: 3.5 ft
  • Sewage System: MSD
  • Holding Tanks: 3,700 gal
  • Incinerator: None
  • Document/State I.D#: CF1506XS

Ownership: University of California, San Diego

Navigational Capabilities

GPS Trimble NT 300 DGPS RADAR Furuno 3cm, 10cm ADU GPs Ashtech Attitude-sensing System Fathometer Furuno FCV 382 50/200 KHz Gyro - Sperry MK 37(2) Doppler Speed Log - Ametek 300 KHz Autopilot - ROBERTSON ADF - SIMRAD Taiyo
Scientific Instrumentation
ADCP Narrowband 150  
XBT Sippican MK 12   Digital
Sub-Bottom Profiler Knudsen 320 B 3.5 / 12  
Underway Data System     Meteorological and Sea Surface
Ocean Surveyor Teledyne-RDI 75

Other equipment and technical services available on cruise-specific basis. 
Use of isotopes is prohibited in ship's laboratories. Isotope isolation vans are available by request.

Vans: Vans can be carried on the main and winch decks.

Communications: VHF, voice, HF radio voice and TELEX, cellular telephone voice and FAX, INMARSAT voice, data and FAX. 

Limited email service is provided through satellite cellular telephone/Inmarsat. Messages are normally transferred once per day. Contact captain or chief mate for information.

Future planned upgrades/refits: Complete ethernet network in ship's laboratories, replace Doppler speed log, and upgrade emergency generator.

Support Equipment
(At Sea)
Stern A-frame Stern Centered 11,500 lbs.  
J-frame Stbd amidships 3,800 lbs.  
Nautilus Crane Main Deck Aft 4,000 lbs.  
Workboat     Inflatable
Mooring Capstan     Relocatable
Deck Boltdowns All Decks and All Labs   2'x2' pattern
Uncontaminated Seawater Maindeck Labs    
Transducer Well 01 Deck amidships   41" diameter
Stern Ramp Stern Centered   12' wide
Walk-in Scientific Ref/Freezer Fwd of J-frame   5' x 7'


Dynacon Traction 10,000 m .680" EM or 
10,000 m 9/16" 3x19 Trawl
Interchangeable Drums, .680" Fiber Optic capable, wire led to A-frame
Markey DUSH-6 CTD 9,100 m .322" Conductor Wire (CTD) Lebus Grooving WWire led to Stbd J-frame
Markey DUSH-5 7,600 m ___" 3x19 hydrographic wire Wire led to Stbd J-frame
Portable Various Sizes and Lengths Contact MarFac for Information
Deck Plans