Vessels are arguably the most critical element in any ocean-going venture. Once a ship leaves the safety of its dock, it is an island unto itself on the open seas, its crew at the mercy of the waves. Any ship, from a 15-foot sailboat to a 1,500-foot tanker, must carry all of the food, water, fuel, and equipment that its crew will need to live safely for the duration of the journey.
In the case of research vessels, such as those highlighted here, the ships must also be equipped with special tools and technology that allow scientists to explore ocean environments. Research vessels are highly advanced mobile research stations, providing stable platforms from which explorers can deploy equipment, divers, and submersibles. In addition, these vessels carry state-of- the-art electronics, computers, and navigational and communications systems.