Section 6: Navigation and Communications Capability

Sally Ride is equipped with an extensive suite of navigation and communications instruments and devices. This equipment allows precise navigation and control of the ship and worldwide communications in voice and data. A number of the more prominent systems and devices are listed below and described.

CELLULAR TELEPHONE -  The captain is equipped with a cellular telephone, but R/V Sally Ride normally operates beyond the range of cellular networks.  While in port, the Computing Resources technician will explore options to provide 3G/4G LTE for the ship to use as the main source of internet.


DEPTH RECORDING - There is a fathometer on the bridge. Maximum reliable soundings are ~300 meters.

Deep sea soundings are accomplished with the EM122 or EM712 Multibeam, or the 3.5/12 kHz echosounder system. (See SONAR in Section 4.)

DIRECTION FINDING EQUIPMENT - A direction finder is scheduled for installation in the pilot house. It is primarily used for locating beacons from moorings, AUVs, etc  at sea. Transmitters for use with this system are provided by the scientific group or arrangements for the appropriate equipment can be made with the Resident Marine Technicians Group.

GYRO COMPASS - Sally Ride carries two Sperry Mark 37 gyro compasses. In addition to these, the science acquisition primarily uses Seapath 330+ and IXSEA PHINS MRUs.  A number of electronic devices, including navigation systems and the shipboard computer system, have inputs from the gyro compass.

HAND-HELD RADIOS - The ship normally carries portable VHF and UHF marine radios. They are used for internal communications and small boat operations.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS - Three installed systems facilitate internal communications around the ship - a household-type dial telephone, a sound-powered phone system and a mission announcement system. The directory for the dial phone system is posted next to each phone. The sound-powered phone has no external power supply. A list of stations is posted on each phone. To call using the sound-powered phone select the desired station. Crank the handle two or three times to ring the phone, press the button on the handset and talk. The button on the handset must be pressed both to talk and to listen. A public address system is operated from the bridge. It is used to make urgent pages and for emergencies. Instructions are posted by the various units.

NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT - Sally Ride navigates primarily by JRC JLR-4341 DGPS. A doppler log is utilized for speeds. A full set of traditional navigation equipment is maintained onboard.

RADAR - Two JRC marine radar are carried; an S band (10 cm) and an X band (3 cm). Radar consoles are located on the bridge. Do not touch this equipment without permission of the mate on watch. A WaMoS X-band wave radar with 1.5 nautical mile range is also installed.  

HF/SSB COMMUNICATIONS - GMDSS radio suite carried aboard.

SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS - HiSeasnet C- and Ku-Band capable is the primary satellite communications system on board. In the best-case scenario, it is capable of 512kbit/s download, and 96kbit/s upload. This pipe is shared with other UNOLS vessels in the same ocean basin. Dual Inmarsat FleetBroadBand L-Band satellite system is the backup. Coverage for HiSeasNet and FleetBroadBand are worldwide. Additional bandwidth can be purchased, but must be arranged months before a cruise, usually requested during the pre-cruise meeting.

This ship has Internet, but it's not like the Internet you have at home. We make our Internet connection using multiple satellite and cellular systems, none of which are as fast as you're used to. We're making every effort to provide the best Internet experience possible for everyone aboard sharing our connection.

We've implemented the following measures to make Internet usage equitable for everyone on the ship:

  • Each user on the ship receives a network account with a daily data quota.

  • The username associated with the account is the same as your email address up to the @ symbol.

  • To access the Internet, log in to a captive portal webpage.

  • You can also check your daily data usage from a webpage.

  • Connect to the Internet on one device at a time. Log out from the device before logging in with another.

  • Log out from the Internet when you aren't using it to reduce unintentional background usage.


Certain websites and services that use a lot of bandwidth aren't available:

  • Streaming audio/video (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, Pandora)

  • VoIP applications (Skype): The ship provides VoIP capability.

  • Cloud-based services (iCloud, DropBox, GoogleDrive, Microsoft OneDrive)

  • Software auto-updating (Windows Update, Apple Software Update)

You're welcome to use off-ship POP or IMAP mail servers to read mail (careful with large attachments)

We recommend that you do the following before you reach the ship:

  • Download and bring with you large files (manuals, software, drivers), particularly drivers for shipboard printers.

  • Install and test critical software on the computers you're bringing to the ship, ahead of time.

  • Ensure that your applications do not require a persistent Internet connection (Office 365, some MatLab licenses).

  • Sync your email archives to your local device, and limit the size of messages to download.

  • Download a web browser plug-in that allows you to turn off images when they're not necessary.

When you're aboard the ship:

  • Ensure that your devices do not auto-update or auto-backup to off-ship servers.

  • Use low-bandwidth mobile websites instead of the full sites.

  • Use shipboard email, which won't count against your daily data allocation.

Don't worry if you don't know how to do this; we can help: .



HiSeasNet is a satellite communications network designed specifically to provide continuous Internet connectivity for oceanographic research ships and platforms. Access to the Internet is an integral part of nearly every research lab and office on land; extending this access to oceanographic ships--our seagoing laboratories--will broadly impact seagoing research activities. For the ships, HiSeasNet will provide:

Transmission of hot data in real-time to shore-side collaborators

Basic communications-email, voice and video teleconferencing for scientists, engineers and crew at sea

Tools for real-time educational interactions between shipboard scientists, teachers and the classroom, as well as informal science and other education and outreach activities

Scalable service expansion of bandwidth for scientific telepresence and broadcast TV viewers

SEARCH LIGHTS - There are two installed search lights to facilitate certain operations at night.

SPEED LOG - (See SONAR, DOPPLER LOG in Section 4.)