Friday, September 26, 2008
Scripps Research Vessel Melville Returns after Two-and-a-Half Year Voyage
'Magellan Expedition' included rich mix of science across a range of fields
Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California, San Diego
After logging more than 100,000 nautical miles covering 10 countries and 49 research missions, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego research vessel Melville returned home on Sept. 23.
The research vessel Melville arrived at its home port at the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility in San Diego on Sept. 23, 2008.
The two-and-a-half year "Magellan Expedition" featured a broad range of science, from undersea volcanoes to ocean acoustics.
"This expedition included everything from physical oceanography to biological oceanography to geology-looking at virtually everything about the ocean," said Bruce Appelgate, Scripps' associate director for Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support. "The logistical challenges of a two-and-a-half year deployment are intricate, and our shipboard crews and shoreside support staffhave done a remarkable job. It gives me great satisfaction to see Melville back in her home port at the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility."
"Melville's return from the success of the Magellan Expedition is yet another reminder of the importance of Scripps' research vessels and the entire academic fleet," said Scripps Director Tony Haymet, UC San Diego Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences. "The science conducted aboard Melville is an example of the vital research required in the exploration of our planet."
Researchers and crew aboard R/V Melville deploy an acoustic recording package off Kauai. The acoustic properties of the seas just west of the island were the subject of a nearly month-long study led by Scripps during the Melville's Magellan Expedition.
Discoveries during the Magellan Expedition included dramatic close-up observations of a deep-sea volcanic eruption, including red lava, plumes of ash, liquid carbon dioxide and molten sulfur, all of which were observed by a robotic submersible controlled from a command module aboard R/V Melville.
Scripps geophysicists Jeff Gee and Steve Cande used R/V Melville as an "aircraft carrier" by launching and recovering unmanned aerial vehicles at sea to more efficiently conduct studies on Earth's geomagnetic field. The earth's magnetic field's intensity has been weakening for more than 150 years, which could eventually leave electrical grids vulnerable and widen ozone holes in the atmosphere.
Captain Christopher Curl navigates Melville as the ship returns to its home port after a two-and-a-half year expedition.
Scripps' Bill Hodgkiss led a study of the turbulent seas off Kauai to measure the physical properties of sound traveling through the ocean, while Scripps oceanographer Eric Terrill used Melville to deploy, test and recover profiling drifters in the remote deep ocean. Scripps geochemist David Hilton captured samples of seafloor between Fiji and Samoa to better understand seafloor spreading centers and volcanic seamounts. Dan Rudnick, Jim Dufour and their colleagues conducted experiments originating in Taiwan using Spray gliders equipped with an array of sensors to observe oceanic flows and tidal forces.
Other Magellan Expedition countries included Guam, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Built in 1969, the 279-foot R/V Melville is the oldest active vessel in the academic research fleet, collectively known as the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System.
"The mission of Melville, and all of Scripps' ships, is to explore the earth's remarkable oceans, which makes the entire planet our study area," said Appelgate. "Scripps' ships are extensions of our laboratories and they provide scientists with the unique ability to make the all-important measurements and observations they need."
R/V Melville steamed past downtown San Diego on its way home on Sept. 23, 2008.
The Scripps fleet, one of the largest academic fleets in the United States, conducts scientific operations around the planet. It includes the flagship global-class research vessel(R/V) Roger Revelle, named after the former Scripps director and founder of UC San Diego; the R/V Melville, a global-class ship that has circumnavigated the globe; the R/V New Horizon, an intermediate-class vessel that operates primarily in the eastern Pacific Ocean; and the R/V Robert Gordon Sproul, a regional-class vessel that conducts short missions off the U.S. West Coast. The Nimitz Marine Facility also provides support to the Floating Instrument Platform, or FLIP, a one-of-a-kind spar buoy (operated by Scripps' Marine Physical Laboratory) designed as a stable platform for certain oceanographic research operations.
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Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. The National Research Council has ranked Scripps first in faculty quality among oceanography programs nationwide Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,300, and annual expenditures of approximately $155 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration.
Research conducted on R/V Melville
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