The Thomas G. Thompson has spent a quarter century exploring the world’s oceans.
University of Washington
The Thomas G. Thompson has spent a quarter century exploring the world’s oceans.

The R/V Thomas G. Thompson, the 274-foot-long research vessel operated by the University of Washington, has spent 25 years carrying researchers, students, and teachers out to sea. The ship has collected material from the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches and braved storms near Antarctica.

This week, the ship will begin a year-long stay in protected waters and dry dock near Seattle’s Harbor Island for a complete overhaul of its propulsion system, navigation, and many core engineering systems. The roughly $30 million project, funded by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, will allow the boat, originally intended to operate for 30 years, to continue for another 20 to 25 years.

The overall project also includes training for the ship’s two captains and crew on the new systems, installing a new lifeboat, replacing the winches that lower instruments into the ocean from the deck, and getting a fresh paint job. It will have its six diesel engines replaced, be outfitted with modern navigation and control system, and get new plumbing and upgraded heating and ventilation. As a result, the upgraded and overhauled Tommy Thompson, as the ship is commonly and affectionately known, will use less fuel, produce fewer emissions, and will have the capacity to support new, high-powered ocean instruments.

“We are extremely proud of the Thompson and her crew. They play such a key role in our research and educational programs,” said Virginia Armbrust, professor and director of the UW’s School of Oceanography. “She was already a fantastic ship to sail on—I can’t wait to see what she’s like in this next phase of her life.”

Read more at UW Today »