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U.S. Ocean Research Fleet’s Newest Vessel To Visit New York and Washington,DC

May 6, 1997

The 274-foot Research Vessel Atlantis, the nation’s newest and most capable deep-sea research vessel and new support ship for the deep-diving three-person submersible Alvin, will visit New York City May 14-16 and Washington, DC May 19-21 as part of its first cruise before it begins extensive research activities in the Pacific Ocean.

Atlantis, which left a Mississippi shipyard March 25 after almost three years of construction, was funded by the U.S. Navy and is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, MA, for the American ocean research community. As the National Deep Submergence Facility, Atlantis is the first ship in the United States’s academic research fleet built to conduct both manned and unmanned deep-sea exploration. Atlantis is one of the most sophisticated research vessels afloat, equipped with precision navigation, bottom mapping and satellite telecommunications systems and capable of supporting both submersible operations and general purpose oceanographic research worldwide.

The submersible Alvin, which will be aboard the vessel, gained international attention for the 1977 discovery and continued exploration of deep-sea communities full of new species of life, and for its survey of the wreck of the sunken ocean liner Titanic in 1986, nine months after another Institution vehicle, the towed imaging sled Argo, had located the wreck in more than 12,000 feet of water in the North Atlantic Ocean. In addition toAlvin , the Institution’s new autonomous vehicles ABE and REMUS, which can reach 98 percent of the world’s ocean floor, and other research tools will also be aboard.

Atlantis will be docking near the Water Club at 30th and FDR Drive in New York City at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 14, and will depart New York about 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 16, for Washington. The ship will sail up the Potomac River and dock in Old Town Alexandria, VA on May 18. Among the invited groups that will visit the vessel in Washington May 19-21 will be participants of the 1997 Global Conference of the Advisory Committee on the Protection of the Sea (ACOPS). Some 45 nations are expected to participate in that conference. Other invited guests include Members of Congress and Congressional staff that deal with scientific research, and federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, plus many friends of ocean sciences. In both New York and Washington selected groups of students and science teachers have been invited aboard to tour the ship, see the various exploration vehicles, and learn more about ocean sciences research and careers in oceanography.

Construction of Atlantis began with the vessel’s keel laying in August 1994 at Halter Marine Inc. in Moss Point, Mississippi. The ship left a Halter Marine shipyard in Pascagoula, MS, March 25 and arrived home in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, April 11. During its trip through the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic Ocean a variety of tests were conducted on various systems aboard the vessel. Brief port calls were made at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, March 29 and at Norfolk, VA, April 5 to disembark technicians involved in some of those tests.

Alvin<is the nation’s most active deep-diving submersible with more than 3,000 dives to depths up to 15,000 feet to its credit. The sub recently completed a routine overhaul and upgrade in Woods Hole and was loaded on toAtlantis April 16. After dockside outfitting in prepartion for the start of science operations and the visits to New York and Washington, Atlantis will depart Woods Hole June 2 for a cruise in the North Atlantic before heading for the Pacific Ocean to begin an extended research voyage.

” The oceans cover 70 percent of our planet, yet we have explored only a few percent of the seafloor and less than one percent of the ocean itself, which averages more than two miles deep,” WHOI Director Robert Gagosian said. “Understanding the oceans is critical to the survival of humans as a species, particularly as the world’s population doubles in the next few decades. The demands for food, fuel and other resources from the sea will only increase, as will the pressures of coastal development, pollution, and other factors which accompany population growth. This ship provides the U.S. ocean sciences research community an unprecedented capability and will enable ocean scientists to vastly improve our knowledge of the oceans to help ensure their wise use for the benefit of people worldwide. The discoveries to be made from this vessel and by the scientists, engineers and technicians who will work aboard it during the next thirty plus years of its career are certain to be extraordinary and well beyond anything we can envision today.”

Atlantis is the third and final ship in a new class of vessels being built by the Navy for the academic ocean research community and operated by research institutions and universities under charter agreement. The ships are known as AGOR class ships, for Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research; Atlantis is AGOR-25. Following completion of outfitting for scientific research dockside at Woods Hole, the 274-foot Atlantis will be operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS). The 25 or so UNOLS ships are used by researchers around the country and by collaborating scientists from other nations. Atlantis was officially turned over by the Navy to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to operate on March 3.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, is the largest independent marine research organization in the United States, with an annual operating budget of approximately $86 million and a staff of 1,000 scientists and students. The Institution is dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering and to the education of marine scientists and engineers. WHOI was founded in 1930 and conducts research projects worldwide in departments of applied ocean physics and engineering, biology, marine chemistry and geochemistry, geology and geophysics, and physical oceanography and in its Marine Policy Center and Rinehart Coastal Research Center. Joint graduate degrees are awarded with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and by the Institution itself, and other undergraduate and postgraduate education programs are offered. In addition to Atlantis and Alvin, WHOI operates two other global-ranging research vessels, the 279-foot Knorr and the 177-foot Oceanus, a 46-foot coastal vessel and several smaller boats, and a variety of unmanned exploration vehicles capable of exploring the world’s oceans.

Note: Photos and videotape footage available

For additional information, contact:
Shelley Lauzon, Senior News Officer
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, 02543
FAX: 508-457-2180