Research vessel

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A research vessel (RV or R/V) is a ship or boat designed, modified, or equipped to carry out research at sea. Research vessels carry out a number of roles. Some of these roles can be combined into a single vessel but others require a dedicated vessel. Due to the demanding nature of the work, research vessels are often constructed around an icebreaker hull, allowing them to operate in polar waters.



Endeavour replica in 2000 Captain Cook's Boat "Endeavour" - - 103834.jpg

The research ship had origins in the early voyages of exploration. [1] By the time of James Cook's Endeavour, the essentials of what today we would call a research ship are clearly apparent. In 1766, the Royal Society hired Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun. [2] The Endeavour was a sturdy vessel, well designed and equipped for the ordeals she would face, and fitted out with facilities for her "research personnel", Joseph Banks. As is common with contemporary research vessels, Endeavour also carried out more than one kind of research, including comprehensive hydrographic survey work.

Some other notable early research vessels were HMS Beagle, RV Calypso, HMS Challenger, USFC Albatross, and the Endurance and Terra Nova.

The names of early research vessels have been used to name later research vessels, as well as Space Shuttles.

Modern types

Modern types
Canadian hydrographic survey vessel CCGS Frederick G. Creed
NOAAS Ronald H Brown.jpg
United States oceanographic research vessel, NOAAS Ronald H. Brown
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Danish fisheries research vessel, FRV Dana
Neue Planet von vorn.jpg
German naval research vessel Planet

Hydrographic survey

A hydrographic survey ship is a vessel designed to conduct hydrographic research and survey. Nautical charts are produced from this information to ensure safe navigation by military and civilian shipping.

Hydrographic survey vessels also conduct seismic surveys of the seabed and the underlying geology. Apart from producing the charts, this information is useful for detecting geological features likely to bear oil or gas. These vessels usually mount equipment on a towed structure, for example, air cannons used to generate shock waves that sound strata beneath the seabed, or mounted on the keel, for example, a depth sounder.

In practice, hydrographic survey vessels are often equipped to perform multiple roles. Some function also as oceanographic research ships. Naval hydrographic survey vessels often do naval research, for example, on submarine detection.

An example of a hydrographic survey vessel is CCGS Frederick G. Creed. For an example of the employment of a survey ship see HMS Hydra.

Oceanographic research

Oceanographic research vessels carry out research on the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of water, the atmosphere, and climate, and to these ends carry equipment for collecting water samples from a range of depths, including the deep seas, as well as equipment for the hydrographic sounding of the seabed, along with numerous other environmental sensors. These vessels often also carry scientific divers [3] and unmanned underwater vehicles. Since the requirements of both oceanographic and hydrographic research are very different from those of fisheries research, these boats often fulfill dual roles. Recent oceanographic research campaigns include GEOTRACES and NAAMES.

Examples of an oceanographic research vessel include the NOAAS Ronald H. Brown and the Chilean Navy Cabo de Hornos . [4]

Fisheries research

A fisheries research vessel requires platforms capable of towing different types of fishing nets, collecting plankton or water samples from a range of depths, and carrying acoustic fish-finding equipment. Fisheries research vessels are often designed and built along the same lines as a large fishing vessel, but with space given over to laboratories and equipment storage, as opposed to storage of the catch. An example of a fisheries research vessel is FRV Scotia.

Naval research vessels investigate naval concerns, such as submarine and mine detection or sonar and weapons trials. An example of a naval research vessel is the Planet of the German Navy.

Polar research

Polar research vessels are constructed around an icebreaker hull, allowing them to engage in ice navigation and operate in polar waters. These vessels usually have dual roles, particularly in the Antarctic, where they function also as polar replenishment and supply vessels to the Antarctic research bases. An example of a polar research vessel is USCGC Polar Star.

Oil exploration

Oil exploration is performed in a number of ways, one of the most common being mobile drilling platforms or ships that are moved from area to area as needed to drill into the seabed to find out what deposits lie beneath it.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Hecla</i>-class survey vessel

The Hecla class formed the backbone of the Royal Navy's ocean survey fleet from the mid-1960s.

<i>Echo</i>-class survey ship (2002) class of Royal Navy (RN) multi-purpose hydrographic survey ship

The Echo class is a class of multi-purpose hydrographic survey ships in commission with the Royal Navy. The ships are primarily tasked with conducting survey work in support of submarine and amphibious operations, however, the class also has a secondary role in mine countermeasures. The two vessels of the class are the most recent additions to the Royal Navy's Hydrographic Squadron. Each ship displaces approximately 3,700 tonnes, and is equipped with a state of the art suite of equipment.

<i>Oden</i> (1988 icebreaker)

Oden is a large Swedish icebreaker, built in 1988 for the Swedish Maritime Administration. It is named after the Norse god Odin. First built to clear a passage through the ice of the Gulf of Bothnia for cargo ships, it was later modified to serve as a research vessel. Equipped with its own helicopter and manned by 15 crew members it has ample capacity to carry laboratory equipment and 80 passengers, functioning independently in harsh Polar ice packs of the Arctic and Antarctic seas. It was the first non-nuclear surface vessel to reach the North Pole, together with the German research icebreaker Polarstern. It has participated in several scientific expeditions in Arctic and Antarctica.

USCGC <i>Edisto</i> (WAGB-284) Wind class icebreaker

USS Edisto (AGB-2) was a Wind-class icebreaker in the service of the United States Navy and was later transferred to the United States Coast Guard as USCGC Edisto (WAGB-284). She was named after Edisto Island, South Carolina. The island is named after the Native American Edisto Band who inhabited the island and the surrounding area. As of 2011 there is a namesake cutter USCGC Edisto (WPB-1313). The newer Edisto is a 110-foot Island-class patrol boat and is stationed in San Diego County, California.

INS <i>Darshak</i>

INS Darshak (J21) is a hydrographic survey ship in the Indian Navy, under the Eastern Naval Command.

A Royal Research Ship (RRS) is a merchant navy vessel of the United Kingdom that conducts scientific research for Her Majesty's Government. Organisations operating such ships include; the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC). A warrant from the Queen is required before a ship can be designated as an RRS.

History of research ships

The research ship had origins in the early voyages of exploration. By the time of James Cook's Endeavour, the essentials of what today we would call a research ship are clearly apparent. In 1766, the Royal Society hired Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun. The Endeavour was a sturdy boat, well designed and equipped for the ordeals she would face, and fitted out with facilities for her research personnel, Joseph Banks. And, as is common with contemporary research vessels, Endeavour carried out more than one kind of research, including comprehensive hydrographic survey work.

RV <i>Knorr</i>

RV Knorr was a research vessel formerly owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the U.S. research community in coordination with and as a part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) fleet. On March 14, 2016, Knorr was officially transferred to the Mexican Navy and renamed Rio Tecolutla. She was replaced at Woods Hole by the RV Neil Armstrong. Knorr is best known as the ship that supported researchers as they discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1985. R/V Knorr (AGOR-15) has traveled more than a million miles—the rough equivalent of two round trips to the Moon or forty trips around the Earth. Her sister ship is the RV Melville.

The Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), located at John C. Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi, comprises approximately 1,000 civilian, military and contract personnel responsible for providing oceanographic products and services to all elements within the Department of Defense.

Multibeam echosounder A type of sonar used to map the seabed

A multibeam echosounder is a type of sonar that is used to map the seabed. Like other sonar systems, multibeam systems emit sound waves in a fan shape beneath a ship's hull. The amount of time it takes for the sound waves to bounce off the seabed and return to a receiver is used to determine water depth. Unlike other sonars, multibeam systems use beamforming to extract directional information from the returning soundwaves, producing a swath of depth readings from a single ping.

Behr Paima is a hydrographic survey and Research vessel owned by Pakistan Navy. Her keel was laid on 16 February 1982 and was launched on 7 July 1982 in Japan. The ship was handed over to Pakistan Navy on 27 December, same year. The ship was equipped with most modern surveying systems of the time. The hydrographic systems have been upgraded since then from time to time and hence are parallel with modern trends and techniques available in the world. Most of the oceanographic equipments are, however, of the original outfit.

NOAAS <i>Mount Mitchell</i> (S 222)

NOAAS Mount Mitchell was an American survey vessel in commission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 1970 to 1995. Prior to her NOAA career, she was in commission in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey as USC&GS Mount Mitchell from 1968 to 1970. In 2003, she returned to service as the private research ship R/V Mt. Mitchell.

Deep-sea exploration investigation of conditions on the sea bed, for scientific or commercial purposes

Deep-sea exploration is the investigation of physical, chemical, and biological conditions on the sea bed, for scientific or commercial purposes. Deep-sea exploration is considered a relatively recent human activity compared to the other areas of geophysical research, as the depths of the sea have been investigated only during comparatively recent years. The ocean depths still remain a largely unexplored part of the planet, and form a relatively undiscovered domain.

RV <i>Polar Duke</i>

The RV Polar Duke is a 219-foot ice-strengthened research vessel built in 1983. Polar Duke was designed specifically for scientific research with wet and dry laboratories, and an electronic workshop and laboratory. The hull is constructed similar to that of an icebreaker, but the ship isn’t as powerful as an icebreaker. It was originally equipped with a stern A-frame crane and helicopter deck; these were both removed in a major refit in 1998.

HMS <i>Protector</i> (A173) Royal Navy ice patrol ship built in Norway in 2001

HMS Protector is a Royal Navy ice patrol ship built in Norway in mid 2000. As MV Polarbjørn she operated under charter as a polar research icebreaker and a subsea support vessel. In 2011, she was chartered as a temporary replacement for the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance and was purchased by the British Ministry of Defence in early September 2013.

RV <i>Cefas Endeavour</i>

RV Cefas Endeavour is an ocean-going fisheries research vessel based at the port of Lowestoft and owned by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

NOAAS <i>Reuben Lasker</i> (R 228) American fisheries and oceanographic research ship in commission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fleet since 2014

NOAAS Reuben Lasker is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fishery research vessel. The ship's namesake, Reuben Lasker, was a fisheries biologist who served with the Southwest Fisheries Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, and taught at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This class of NOAA ships is very similar to, and based in part upon, the Neil Armstrong-class Oceanographic Research (AGOR) ships owned by the Office of Naval Research and operated by various US Universities.

RV <i>Tangaroa</i>

RV Tangaroa is a research vessel operated by the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. It was purpose-built as a Deepwater Research Vessel for the then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Research Centre at a cost of $27 million to replace the ageing GRV James Cook. It has a DNV classification of 1A1 and Ice 1C. It was transferred to the new National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in 1992.

INS <i>Nirdeshak</i>

INS Nirdeshak (J19) was the sixth ship of the Sandhayak class of the Indian Navy. The ship operated as a hydrographic survey ship in the Indian Navy, under the Eastern Naval Command. Nirdeshak was equipped to prepare a variety of marine charts and maps for Electronic Chart Display and Information ECDIS system. The ship's secondary role was to conduct humanitarian aid and disaster management operations, wherein the ship could be converted into a hospital ship. The ship was also equipped with an operating theater and associated equipment needed to attend to medical emergencies at sea.


  1. Adler, Antony (2013-10-12). "The Ship as Laboratory: Making Space for Field Science at Sea". Journal of the History of Biology. 47 (3): 333–362. doi:10.1007/s10739-013-9367-7. ISSN   0022-5010. PMID   24122291.
  2. Beazley, Charles Raymond (1911). "Cook, James"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 71.
  3. Griffin, J.J. (ed) 1991. The Final Report of the Workshop on Scientific Shipboard Diving Safety to the National Science Foundation, University National Oceanographic Laboratory System, Graduate School of Oceanography Technical Report Number 90-04, Narragansett, RI, USA.
  4. "R/V Cabo de Hornos, Chile". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015.

Further reading