New UW vessel, RV Rachel Carson, will explore regional waters


Hannah Hickey

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The University of Washington’s School of Oceanography has a new member of its fleet. After revamping its global-class research vessel earlier this year, it now also has a new ship that will allow UW researchers and students to explore waters in Puget Sound and nearby coasts.

The RV Rachel Carson was built as a fisheries research vessel in Scotland in 2003, and the UW acquired it in 2017 and had it shipped to Seattle last winter. It completed its first science voyage in early April, and is expected to officially join the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System fleet this summer.

“With its significantly greater capabilities, the Rachel Carson really expands our ability to take more scientists and students to sea, to provide better hands-on instruction, and to conduct a much wider portfolio of oceanographic science,” said Douglas Russell, the UW’s manager of marine operations.

The 72-foot vessel was purchased with a $1 million gift from William and Beatrice Booth. The UW then made upgrades this spring to better equip the ship for teaching and research. It replaces the 65-foot RV Clifford Barnes, which served the UW for almost 35 years.

Unlike its predecessor, the RV Carson was built as a research ship. It has larger lab space, better tools for lowering equipment into the water, and space for 13 people to sleep onboard. It also has more stable handling, allowing it to venture out in stormier seas and along Washington’s outer coast.

The vessel is named for Rachel Carson, the American marine biologist, author and conservationist.

“It was truly an honor to lead the first group to sail on the RV Rachel Carson, literally researching ‘the sea around us’ in Washington,” said Jan Newton, an oceanographer at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory who was chief scientist on the ship’s first research cruise. “The ship is very stable, allowing us to work in rough conditions, and its increased capacity allows us to involve more students. I was very impressed!”

That cruise was a five-day trip around Puget Sound to collect samples for monitoring by the state-funded Washington Ocean Acidification Center.

The ship also has taken Oceanography 220 undergraduates on a cruise north of Seattle, and this week is doing half-day cruises out of Shilshole Marina for the Oceanography 201 class.

The ship’s home port is on the UW Oceanography dock. It is available for use by oceanographic researchers and instructors from inside and outside the UW.

For more information, contact Russell at 206-543-5062 or dgruss@uw.edu.

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