Let them eat cake – R/V Sikuliaq construction on schedule!

Drawings and renderings by The Glosten Associates

Assembly of Alaska’s new research vessel, the R/V Sikuliaq (see-KOO-lee-auk), is in full swing. The ship, owned by the National Science Foundation, will be operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, as part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. The Sikuliaq is under construction at Marinette Marine Corporation’s shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin. Following a summer 2012 launch, the vessel will undergo a series of sea trials before transport through the St. Lawrence Seaway, through the Panama Canal, and north to Seward, Alaska, which will become the vessel’s home port. Science operations are scheduled to begin in 2014 and will focus on the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Arctic Ocean.

An initial design collaboration (between UAF, Seattle’s The Glosten Associates, naval architects, Guido Perla and Associates, and the Marinette Corporation) identified science needs in context of engineering constraints. Next, the Marinette Corporation created full-scale mock-ups of the hull, bridge, main laboratories, the ADA-compliant stateroom, and aft science control room. The models allowed for troubleshooting unforeseen design and engineering issues and resulted in a six-foot addition to the ship’s mid-section in order to accommodate technical equipment and add deck space.


Ship fabrication is modular. Sections are built separately and pieced together in the shipyard.

On April 11, 2011, Marinette hosted the Sikuliaq’s keel-laying ceremony. The keel is a large steel beam around which the hull of the ship is constructed. Traditionally, when the keel is placed in the construction cradle, a ceremony is held to commemorate the start of construction and to recognize a ship sponsor.

Photos from the R/V Sikuliaq keel-laying ceremony http://www.youtube.com/user/ARRVUAF

More than 80 people attended the Sikuliaq keel-laying ceremony, including UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, Marinette Marine Corporation CEO Richard McCreary, Congressman Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, State Senator Dave Hansen, and David Conover, NSF Ocean Sciences Division Director. Fanfare centered on recognition of the Sikuliaq’s co-sponsors, UAF School of Fisheries dean emeritus, Vera Alexander, and professor emeritus, Robert Elsner. Ship sponsors are chosen based on their willingness to support the ship, metaphorically speaking. In the Sikuliaq’s case, Alexander and Elsner both had careers in arctic research and have been active in planning for an Alaska-based research vessel since the 1970s.

Following a number of speeches, Alexander and Elsner participated in the traditional welding ceremony wherein ship sponsors initial a steel plate that will later be affixed to the keel. For permanence, their initials are welded into the steel plate. A reception was held following the ceremony.

Stay tuned…

--Marcy Davis

Sikuliaq site: http://www.sfos.uaf.edu/arrv/