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Tour the New Research Vessel R/V Neil Armstrong, an insider photo essay

June 26th, 2016 by Beth Colt

new research vessel in Woods Hole

Woods Hole officially welcomed a new $100 million dollar research ship called the R/V Neil Armstrong on Saturday June 25th.  Over 25 years in the planning, this gleaming new floating laboratory was open for the day, with thousands of lucky visitors (including me!) invited on board for a full tour.

Woods Hole is the NASA of the ocean.  Led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, our tiny village is a world leader in understanding everything about ocean science.  I have been looking forward to my VIP insider tour since the invitation arrived weeks ago.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution WHOI

Our tour was led by Cyndy Chandler, longtime WHOI scientist and veteran of many “cruises” which is what the scientists call a research trip out on the boat.

new boat in Woods HoleOur group was pretty stoked as we boarded, looking up at this huge ship loaded with high tech gear.

Woods Hole research boats

Check out the Bridge of the R/V Neil Armstrong

First stop was the bridge, where we learned the ship is controlled by the tiniest wheel plus a couple of joysticks like a video game console.  The navigator explained that the technology of the ship’s engines allows them to remain in an exact location within a few inches if the seas are calm.

inside tour of research vessel in Woods Hole

What about inside the ship?

We traveled up and down the ship’s hallways, seeing bunk rooms, a floating hospital room, a fully handicap accessible room, recreational spaces and laboratories where the scientists do their work at sea.

R/V Neil Armstrong in Woods Hole

Cyndy explained how communications at sea have changed since she started at WHOI in the 1970’s.  She said the new internet connection was great for morale as shipmates can communicate regularly with loved ones, but sometimes she missed the quiet of leaving distractions behind.

Woods Hole scienceShe told us the labs were stripped of gear as each science cruise brings their own computers and equipment aboard.

research vessel in Woods Hole, interior

See the Galley of the R/V Neil Armstrong

The galley is where the 40+ scientists and crew eat all their meals.  The chef talked about the challenges of cooking and serving meals when the boat is in a rough sea.  I appreciated the small plastic sign he had over the serving area (“free beer tomorrow“) which he removed from the former vessel R/V Knorr before it was sold to the Mexican Navy.

visit inside the RV Neil ArmstrongOutside, we looked back at the Woods Hole waterfront from on high.  The ship feels at least four stories tall,

Woods Hole newsand I spied Quicks Hole Tavern and the Woods Hole Inn from this cool new vantage point.

visit to the research vessel Neil Armstrong

On the aft deck, they explained how experiments start with a huge crane that can lower equipment into the water as well as an ingenious system of deck bolts for ever-changing special gear.

visiting a research vessel in Woods Hole

Back on the Docks

Back out on the docks, there were exhibits, t-shirts, photo-ops and more.  I looked at the “CTD” device that measures conductivity, temperature and depth — one of many things lowered off the ship to collect data.

RV Neil ArmstrongGuides were wearing purple t-shirts with a graphic image of the new ship and the slogan “R/V Neil Armstrong — one giant leap for the ocean.”  In many ways, the mysterious ocean is one of the last unexplored corners of planet earth, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole is much like NASA in it’s mission to understand the darker corners of the deep blue sea.

exploring the RV Neil ArmstrongGoofing around at the end of the tour of the R/V Neil Armstrong with one of the divers suits, I am deeply appreciative of WHOI for their generous welcome, this amazing tour, and the ongoing science to which they are so dedicated.

Welcoming World Class Scientists, Everyday

It’s pretty cool living next door to all the big things happening at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  It can sometimes be a little intimidating to welcome these world-class scientists to the Woods Hole Inn, but we are reminded that while our research is focused on simpler things like good linens, spotless rooms and the world’s best home made granola, everyone needs a good night’s rest.

Woods Hole MA ocean research

2 thoughts on “Tour the New Research Vessel R/V Neil Armstrong, an insider photo essay

  1. Cyndy Chandler

    Hi Beth,
    You did such a great job capturing the fun and fascinating elements of this special day! More than one hundred volunteers from WHOI including many of the crew members from the Armstrong contributed their time to make those ship tours happen. It was a lot of work to set everything up, so it was very gratifying to see so many people show up for the tours. I estimate that over 1200 people went on the ship tours, and we received so many great comments from people about how much they enjoyed the day. I am so pleased to hear that you enjoyed the day.
    Cheers, Cyndy

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