On Friday, 26 August 2016 the research vessel Sally Ride made its inaugural arrival to our home port at the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility. Built in Anacortes, WA, Sally Ride began a memorable maiden transit southward along the west coast, conducting scientific operations punctuated by port calls in Newport, OR and San Francisco to load and offload scientists who participated in these first Science Verification Cruises.
Scripps scientist Dr Jim Swift led a project to demonstrate the capabilities of Sally Ride's oceanographic winches in deep water near the Mendocino Fracture Zone. Deep-sea winches are vitally important to an oceanographic research vessel, require for lowering heavy, sensitive, expensive sensors to the deepest reaches of our planet. Sally Ride's winches include sophisticated motion-compensation systems that respond to the pitch/roll/heave of the ship in order to reduce tension on the cable -- and minimize induced motions on the sensors.
Dr Swift supervised the commissioning of these winches -- all successfully -- and collaborated with participating scientist Dr Clare Reimers (Oregon State University), who holds the distinct honor of conducting the first scientific operation aboard Sally Ride. Dr Reimers deployed a benthic microbial fuel cell/sensor/acoustic modem node on the seafloor at a depth of about 580 meters, in the oxygen minimum zone. This instrument was developed with funding from the Office of Naval Research, and ONR was supportive of highlighting this research in connection with science trials on R/V Sally Ride. The deployment and installation of the node was completely successful.
Our port call in San Francisco showcased UC San Diego's research enterprise, led by our Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and Scripps Director Margaret Leinen. During a very busy day moored alongside the Exploratorium on Saturday 20 August, we hosted more than 720 guests on board for tours of the vessel, which showed off the laboratories, work decks and living spaces (thanks Exploratorium for the help!). And Wired magazine showed up to conduct a very cool live-streaming tour and great introductory video.
The ship departed San Francisco on Monday 22 AUG toward San Diego, and exercised its mapping sonars to collect first-ever high-resolution bathymetry and imagery over three offshore fault systems from Point Sal to Santa Catalina Island, led by UC Santa Cruz geology professor Eli Silver and his graduate student Joel Edwards. With two multibeam echosounders, Sally Ride acquired an impressive data set over these fault systems, in water depths ranging from 60 to 1,500 meters.
Finally, on Friday 26 August, R/V Sally Ride was introduced to the campus community during a whistlestop visit to the Scripps Oceanography waterfront in La Jolla. After heaving-to south of the SIO Ellen B. Scripps pier, Captain Tom Desjardins expertly demonstrated the agility of the ship by executing a series of 360's -- to the delight of hundreds of faculty, staff, students and friends gathered along the shoreline, the pier and at Birch Aquarium. After a final blast of the ship's horn, R/V Sally Ride departed La Jolla for the Nimitz Marine Facility -- where America's newest oceanographic research vessel will be berthed at America's finest marine facility (newly upgraded for the occasion).
R/V Sally Ride is operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography under a charter agreement with the Office of Naval Research. Owned by the U.S. Navy, R/V Sally Ride will be operated within the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) as a shared-use research facility.