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Tioga is an aluminum-hulled coastal research vessel that serves oceanographers working in waters off New England and throughout the northeastern United States.
As the name implies, a coastal research vessel is designed and outfitted for oceanographic work close to shore, so it is typically smaller and faster than large ships. Tioga, the newest member of the fleet at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, measures 60 feet and cruises at 17 knots.
Large oceanographic vessels are slower than Tioga. For example, R/V Atlantis measures 274 feet and travels about 11 knots. Speed allows Tioga to operate in narrower weather windows, meaning that, when faced with an approaching storm, the vessel can quickly go out to sea, complete research, and make it back before the wind and rain.
Two crew members - a captain and a first mate - are required to operate the vessel, while the larger ships at WHOI need between 12 and 25 crew members for operation. Less shore support is required to operate Tioga, and the vessel also occupies less space at the dock.
Size and speed are the obvious differences, but in many ways coastal research vessels like Tioga operate much like larger oceanographic research ships. It carries ocean research instruments such as a CTD (for conductivity, temperature, and depth), an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, and an echo-sounder, used by scientists to conduct seafloor surveys It has two winches, one with electrical wires to collect real-time data connected to towed underwater instruments. The other is equipped with wire cable used to hoist equipment over the side and haul it on board. Large instruments like buoys can be put into the water using the stern A-frame, which is similar in size to those on WHOI's large ships.
Length: 60 feet
Draft: 5 feet
Beam: 17 feet
Range: 350 miles
Cruising Speed: 17 knots (22.5 max.)
Engines: twin 750-horsepower diesel engines
Endurance: usually one day, occasionally 2 to 3 days
Accommodations: 6 bunks (10 people on day trips)
Gear Handling: A-frame: 4,600 pounds
Fantail: 15 by 20 feet
Construction of Tioga began in April 2003 and it was completed a year later. It was designed in part by Roger Long Marine Architecture, Inc. of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The detailed design and engineering was done by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, Duclos Corp, of Somerset, Mass.
The name Tioga comes from an Iroquois name meaning "swift current." It is also a Seneca name meaning "the meeting of two rivers."