Research vessel Melville


Research vessel Melville was built in 1969 with funding by the U.S. Navy, and subsequently owned by the Office of Naval Research and operated by Scripps Oceanography as part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS).

Configured as a general-purpose oceanographic research vessel, Melville supported a wide range of scientific activities across every discipline of oceanography, and involving capabilities as diverse as deep-towing cameras, deploying massive moorings, precisely maneuvering remotely-operated vehicles thousands of meters below the ship, and launching (and recovering!) unmanned aircraft used to measure gravity and atmospheric physical properties.

A Global Class vessel, Melville excelled at projecting our observational capabilities to the far corners of the planet, operating for extended periods of time far from port through all kinds of weather, with a full complement of state-of-the-art sensing systems and instruments aboard. Melville sailed more than 1.5 million miles from the Arctic Circle to the Southern Ocean, crossed the equator more than 90 times, mapped the deepest spot on the planet, recovered core and dredge samples from trenches greater than 8,000 meters deep, and made first-ever observations of deep ocean volcanic eruptions. Much of what we know today about plate tectonics, marine biodiversity, ocean circulation, waves, climate and the multitude of ways the ocean impacts human society, has benefited from research conducted aboard Melville.

Melville served much longer than the design expectation of a 30-year life, having undergone a service life extension in 1992 that extended the useful life of this ship to 46 years, and resulted in a more capable and efficient vessel. In 2014 Melville reached the end of this extended period, and was retired from UNOLS service in September of that year.


Built: 1969 Mid-Life: 1992 Length: 279' Beam: 46'

  • Draft (max): 16.6'
  • ITC Gross Tonnage: 2,516 tons
  • ITC Net Tonnage: 754 tons
  • Registered Tonnage, Gross: 2,516 tons
  • Registered Tonnage, Net: 754 tons
  • Loaded Displacement: 2,944 long tons
  • Crew: 23
  • Scientific Berthing: 38
  • Motors: Two 1,385 hp Propulsion General Electric
  • Bow Thruster: 900 hp Retractable Azimuthing Thruster
  • Propulsion: Two 1385 hp Z-Drive Lips
  • Water Capacity: 15,900 gal
  • Incinerator: Yes
  • Fuel Consumption: 3,600 gal/day (transit)
  • Transit Speed For Cruise Planning: 11.4 knots ( variable with conditions -- contact us prior to making speed/time estimates)
  • Minimum Speed: variable to 0, any direction
  • Endurance: 40 days at 11.7 knots (fuel)
  • Range: 10,061 nm at 11.7 knots (fuel)
  • Fuel Capacity: 129,000 (planning)
  • Radio Call Sign: WECB
  • Laboratory Space: 2,636 sq. ft
  • Main Deck Working Area: 4,050 sq. ft
  • Freeboard: 12 ft
  • Sewage System: MSD
  • Holding Tanks: 8,000 gal
  • Document/State I.D#: CF0719XS

Scientific berthing at 38 assumes 2 persons in the chief scientist room, and 4 persons in the dormitory.
We request that the second berth in ResTech stateroom and the second berth in the computer tech stateroom be the last two berths filled in the case of a full ship.

Ownership: Title held by U.S. Navy. Operated under charter agreement with Office of Naval Research.

Navigational Capabilities

GPS Trimble Tansmon P-Code GPS Trimble NT 200 DGPS RADAR Sperry 3cm, 10cm ADU GPs Ashtech Attitude-sensing System Fathometer Use EDO Doppler Speed Log Gyro - Sperry MK 37, MK 23 Doppler Speed Log - EDO 300 kHz Dynamic Positioning System - Kongsberg K-POS DP-11 ADF (VHF) - SIMRAD Taiyo
Scientific Equipment
Multibeam Kongsberg EM122 12 kHz 150 degrees maximum swath width
Sub-Bottom Profiler Knudsen 3260 3.5 and 12 kHz Echosounder
ADCP RDI Ocean Surveyor 75 kHz  
ADCP RDI Ocean Surveyor 150 kHz  
Underway Data System     Meteorological and Sea Surface
Data Network     Ethernet, audiovisual in labs and staterooms, F/O and copper links
Computer System Linux server                                    1 GB network
Work Stations Linux and PC   In laboratory
Printers/ Plotters     Laserjet and color inkjet

Other portable equipment and technical services available on cruise-specific basis.

Vans: Multiple van placement locations on main deck, winch deck and forward on 02 deck.

Communications: VHF, SSB voice, and INMARSAT voice and data. 

Major Shipboard Equipment
Equipment Location Working Load Notes
Allied Heavy Crane Top of aft staging bay 5,000 pounds Trawl and dredge capable
Pettibone Crane 02 level amidships 1,800 pounds  Trawl and dredge capable
Stern A-frame Stern-centered 14,000 pounds  
Squirt (hydro) boom Above quarterdeck, starboard side 12,000 pounds  
Portable Cranes Various Various Contact marine superintendent for availability
Instrument wells 1 – 01 level, 28-inch diameter tube
2 – Fantail, 28-inch diameter tube
  Located behind each thruster,
oriented slightly aft and outboard
Mooring Capstan Main deck Aft   Moveable
Seismic Air Compressor Trawl winch room   1,850 PSI
Deck Boltdowns All decks and laboratories   2 foot x 2 foot  pattern
Stern Ramp Stern-centered   12 feet wide
Bow Observation Chamber Below waterline at bow    
Cargo Hoist Forward end of main laboratory   4 feet wide x 4 feet long
Overhead Hoists Both staging bays    


Winches Cable Notes
Northern Line traction drum 3x19
9/16-inch trawl
.680-inch EM
For safety, science users must provide their own wire.
10,000 meter capacity
Northern Line hydrographic 3x19
1/4-inch hydro
For safety, science users must provide their own wire.
10,000 meter capacity
Markey DESH-6 .322-inch EM For safety, science users must provide their own wire.
10,000 meter capacity
Markey DESH-5 CTD .322-inch EM For safety, science users must provide their own wire.
10,000 meter capacity
Schematic Drawings