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The History of the U.S. Academic Research Fleet

Ships have historically been important tools for oceanographic research. The use of ships to observe ocean phenomena dates back centuries to endeavors by Charles Darwin, Captain James Cook, and Lieutenant John Wilkes (Navy 225, 2000). The use of vessels for nongovernmental research in the United States dates to the early 1930s (Treadwell et al., 1989). As awareness of the importance of understanding the ocean grew, so did the need to have access to the sea. This led to acquisition and use of dedicated ships and smaller craft, and eventually to the formation of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) consortium in 1971. Over the years, the composition and management of these research vessels have evolved. This topic is examined in periods from pre-World War II to the present (inspired by Treadwell et al., 1988, 1989).

PRE-WORLD WAR II

The oceanographic research fleet began with a few converted small craft. A 1929 report by the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oceanography led to the establishment of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the expansion and strengthening of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Washington (National Academy of Sciences, 1930; Bigelow, 1931; Cullen, 2009). The first purpose-built research vessel, the Atlantis, was commissioned for WHOI in 1930 (Cullen, 2009).



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A The History of the U.S. Academic Research Fleet Ships have historically been important tools for oceanographic research. The use of ships to observe ocean phenomena dates back centu- ries to endeavors by Charles Darwin, Captain James Cook, and Lieutenant John Wilkes (Navy 225, 2000). The use of vessels for nongovernmental research in the United States dates to the early 1930s (Treadwell et al., 1989). As awareness of the importance of understanding the ocean grew, so did the need to have access to the sea. This led to acquisition and use of dedicated ships and smaller craft, and eventually to the formation of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) consor- tium in 1971. Over the years, the composition and management of these research vessels have evolved. This topic is examined in periods from pre- World War II to the present (inspired by Treadwell et al., 1988, 1989). PRE-WORLD WAR II The oceanographic research fleet began with a few converted small craft. A 1929 report by the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oceanography led to the establishment of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the expansion and strengthening of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Washington (National Academy of Sciences, 1930; Bigelow, 1931; Cullen, 2009). The first pur- pose-built research vessel, the Atlantis, was commissioned for WHOI in 1930 (Cullen, 2009). 

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 APPENDIX A WORLD WAR II TO 1959 Oceanographic research greatly expanded from a few converted, donated vessels. Research was conducted from a wide range of vessels from military combatants to smaller donated ships. After the war, many of those ships stayed on, and surplus Navy and Army craft were acquired and converted. This period also saw additional institutions added to the research community (notably Texas A&M University, University of Miami, Oregon State University, University of Rhode Island, University of Hawaii, and Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory). The Office of Naval Research (ONR) was the main funding source at the beginning of the period, but gradually gave way to the newly created National Science Foundation (NSF), which was heavily influenced by ONR practices and people (Navy 225, 2000; National Research Council, 2000a). 1960 TO 1980 During this period, many new, purpose-built research vessels were acquired. Older, converted vessels were phased out as newly constructed ships entered the fleet. Federal funding accounted for more than 80 per- cent of these new vessels. The new ships tended to be larger than those being replaced, a trend that has continued through the present day. There was a huge upsurge of ocean research with major national and interna - tional programs, such as the International Geophysical Year, the Interna - tional Decade of Ocean Expedition, the International Indian Ocean Expe - dition and the Global Atmospheric Research Program (Treadwell et al., 1988; Dinsmore, 1998; National Research Council, 1999; Byrne and Din - smore, 2000; Navy 225, 2000). Ships acquired during this time included the Navy-funded vessels Conrad, Washington, and Thompson in the early to mid-1960s; the Navy-funded Global class ships Melville and Knorr in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and the NSF-funded Intermediate class vessels Oceanus, Endeavor, and Wecoma in the mid-1970s. The deep submersible Alvin was also designed, built, and tested and incorporated into the aca- demic fleet, affording researchers access to the deep ocean. Fleet growth came at a price. Ship operating funds did not keep pace with costs (Treadwell et al., 1988; Dinsmore, 1998; Byrne and Dinsmore, 2000). This issue was exacerbated by the gradual reduction of ONR ship- based research and Navy funding. Additionally, ship funding and ship scheduling mechanisms became contentious issues. Until the early 1970s, ships were funded through block grants to the operator institutions, put- ting researchers at non-operator institutions at a disadvantage. Operator institutions controlled the schedules and science parties, creating a “have and have-not” situation among ocean scientists that was resolved through

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 APPENDIX A the creation of the UNOLS consortium (Knauss, 1990; Dinsmore, 1998; Bash, 2001). 1980 TO THE PRESENT The upsurge of oceanographic research and the construction of new research vessels in the 1960s and 1970s led to a robust and capable aca- demic fleet, but many of these ships were approaching obsolescence by the 1980s. A changing focus toward science research priorities, as well as continuing concern about pacing the Soviet submarine threat, led to the need to again replace aging ships with newer, more capable vessels. At this time, oceanography was moving toward multidisciplinary, global-scale research projects (Treadwell et al., 1988; Fleet Review Com- mittee, 1999). These large projects (including the World Ocean Circula - tion Experiment [WOCE], Joint Global Ocean Flux Study [JGOFS], Ridge Interdisciplinary Global Experiments [RIDGE], Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics [GLOBEC], and MARGINS) envisioned a need for research vessels capable of conducting long cruises (up to 60 days at sea) with multidisciplinary science parties of 30 or more scientists and technicians. None of the existing UNOLS ships was deemed suitable to meet these demanding criteria. To meet this need, the Navy built three new Global class vessels in the 1990s (Thompson, Revelle, and Atlantis) and completed major midlife conversions on Melville and Knorr. Alvin was modernized, and a new type of deep ocean tool, the remotely operated vehicle (ROV), was adapted to meet science research requirements. During this time, NSF also funded midlife overhauls of its ships (Oceanus, Endeavor, Wecoma, Point Sur, and Cape Hatteras). UNOLS fleet modernization continued with the building of the first Ocean class vessel, Kilo Moana. It is currently the only SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) vessel in the fleet. Regional and Regional/Coastal class vessels (Atlantic Explorer, Walton Smith, and Hugh R. Sharp) were also brought into the fleet. Most recently, NSF acquired the seismic vessel Marcus Langseth to replace the aging Maurice Ewing. Presently, three Intermediate class vessels (Oceanus, Endeavor, Wecoma) are slated to retire in 2010 and two Regional class ships (Point Sur and Cape Hatteras) come to the end of their projected service lives in 2011 (UNOLS Fleet Improvement Committee, 2009).

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