The public may attend an open launch ceremony for the newest addition to the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) fleet, the 261-foot, ice-strengthened R/V Sikuliaq, on Saturday, October 13, 2012, at the shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin (about 50 mi north of Green Bay). The ship is owned by the National Science Foundation and will be operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
The launch ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and will likely be attended by representatives from several state and federal agencies. In keeping with tradition Co-sponsors Vera Alexander (UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences dean emerita) and Robert Elsner (UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences professor emeritus) will break a ceremonial champagne bottle on the hull and push the button that releases the ship into the water.
Terry Whitledge, Director of UAF’s Institute of Marine Science, says Sikuliaq construction is currently about 71% complete and will be 75% complete by the October 13 launch date.
“Once the ship is in the water, there will still be a lot of outfitting to do – mostly scientific and bridge instrumentation and electronics. Some work will also be done on deck, like the addition of the main A-frame,” Whitledge explains. “The public is welcome to attend; however, we will not allow people to go aboard until the public Sail Away ceremony planned for September 2014. At that time, attendees may tour the entire ship and science systems.”
Following the Sail Away ceremony, the Sikuliaq will sail through the St. Lawrence Seaway, down the Atlantic coast, through the Panama Canal, and north to Seward, Alaska. Meanwhile, modifications are being made to the dock and facilities at the Seward Marine Center where the Sikluiaq will home port.
Ship crew and Seward dockside hires are beginning now and ramping up for July, 2013, completion. Please visit University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Human Resources department web page for more information.
Science operations are expected to begin in 2014 and will focus on projects in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Arctic Ocean. Interested Principal Investigators may request 2014/2015 ship time through the UNOLS website.
For more launch and ship information see the ship website.