Research Vessel Thomas G. Thompson

R/V Thomas G. Thompson. Image courtesy of the University of Washington School of Oceanography.

Image courtesy of the University of Washington School of Oceanography.

The R/V Thomas G. Thompson is owned by the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research. The vessel, which holds the AGOR-23 U.S. Navy designation for an oceanographic research ship, is operated by the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington.

The Thompson measures 274 feet in length and 52.5 feet of beam (width). Its draft (the amount of ship below the water line) with a full load is 19 feet, displacing 3,250 tons of water. Normal cruising speed for the ship is 11 knots.

Science and Research Support

Scientists use the Konsberg EM302 multibeam echosounder mounted on the hull of the Thompson to map the seafloor.

Scientists use the Konsberg EM302 multibeam echosounder mounted on the hull of the Thompson to map the seafloor. Image courtesy of the University of Washington School of Oceanography.

The R/V Thompson is equipped for conducting multidisciplinary research projects that involve large teams of scientists. The vessel can berth up to 36 scientific personnel as well as 21 officers and crew and two marine technicians.

The working space for research includes a number of laboratories. The main lab is the largest and includes multiple scientific benches, air handlers, a fume hood, and sink for lab work. A 235-sqaure-foot wet lab includes facilities where scientists can examine rock and other samples. The vessel has two bioanalytical labs, designed for careful chemical and biological analytical work. Scientists direct highly sophisticated operations such as remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) work from the “hydro” lab of the ship.

The ship has three winches, three cranes, and an A-Frame for launching scientific equipment. Scientists using the Thompson do bring their own specialized equipment relevant to the work that they will do at sea (such as ROV and AUV operations), but the ship is also equipped with a vast amount of scientific equipment and instrumentation for scientists to use.

To look at the seafloor and determine water depths, the Thompson is equipped with a Kongsberg Simrad EM 302 multibeam echo sounder, which is designed to do mapping from 10 meters depth to beyond the continental rises, including the shallower ocean basins. It operates down to approximately 5,000 meters depth. A 3.5 kHz sub-bottom system and a dual frequency transducer capable of both 12 and 34 KHz operation are used in conjunction with the echo sounder to allow researchers to create images of the ocean floor.

On board the vessel is a state-of-the-art Conductivity Temperature Depth system, which measures water properties including salinity, temperature, pressure, and chemistry. The CTD includes sampling bottles that can be used to collect water at any depth and measure light transmission in the water column. An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler is available to measure water currents from the moving ship.

Navigation and Communications

Scientists on the Thompson complete prepartions for dredge operations in the Marina Trench.

Scientists on the Thompson complete prepartions for dredge operations in the Marina Trench. Image courtesy of the University of Washington School of Oceanography.

The Thompson is propelled by two 3,000 horsepower (HP) engines in the stern (360 degree azimuthing stern thrusters), as well as one 1000 HP water jet bow thruster.  This bow thruster also has a 360-degree capability, which combined with the dynamic positioning system, allows the ship to maintain its position on station within a few meters. The ship is equipped with sophisticated satellite equipment (two Trimbal Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and a Northstar Differential GPS receiver) which determine its position at sea and aid in navigation. Palegos Winfrog, an integrated navigation system, is used to display the ship’s position.

The ship’s data acquisition system records at two-second intervals as a standard operating procedure; this interval is usually set at one sample every five seconds. All data are time, date, and position tagged. A new file is started each day at GMT 0:00 and ends at 23:59:55 (depending on the data storage interval).

Internet and network capabilities, as well as access to the shipboard sensors, are provided throughout the ship by ethernet hookups distributed by fiber-optic cable. Voice calls from the vessel can be made using a SeaWave Communication system consisting of a Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) cell phone and Iridium satellite phone (as well as email services)

Scientists and ship personnel on board the Thompson are split into “watches” so that a crew of people is always working, collecting data and managing the ship, 24 hours a day. The mess (the cafeteria, in ship-speak) serves three meals a day and late-night snacks to the hungry crew and scientists. Recreational facilities on board include a TV lounge, library, ping pong table, and exercise room.

 

To learn more:

R/V Thomas G. ThompsonExternal link, University of Washington School of OceanographyExternal link