Friday, May 8 marked the triumphant return of the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson, which arrived home to a sunny Seattle after 823 days at sea. University of Washington Oceanography community members waited along the city’s waterways (practicing social distancing) from the Ballard Locks to the UW campus holding welcome home signs. The excitement was palpable, with many documenting the moment via social media for their colleagues who weren’t there in person. Here are just a few posts from members of the welcome committee:

For those who don’t know, the Thomas G. Thompson is the state-of-the-art, 274 ft. research vessel operated by the UW School of Oceanography, an integral and very beloved member of the ocean-going community. Over the past two years, the R/V Thompson has taken researchers all over the world on a journey that clocked more than one hundred thousand nautical miles, which equates to over four times around the world at the equator! The Thompson even passed Indonesia’s Krakatoa twice – once while the volcano was mid eruption. While most of us couldn’t join the research cruises in person, the Thompson’s crew was gracious enough to share beautiful shots of sunsets and sunrises while out at sea, along with photos from the places it docked – everywhere from the tropics such as Hawaii, Taiwan and Sri Lanka to colder climates in Antarctica and surrounding waters.

The ‘Tommy Thompson’, as the vessel is affectionately nicknamed, has allowed thousands of scientists from numerous institutions all over the world to better understand our earth and ocean processes through countless research projects. The world-class research ship has introduced the next generation of oceanographers to research at sea and has invited writers, videographers and artists to join some voyages as “science party members”.

“The Thompson has always been “Seattle’s ship” since it arrived in 1991. You would be hard-pressed to find a long-time resident who does not know the Thompson. For some students, the Thompson represents their future, opportunity and adventure. For researchers, it has been the vehicle to their research,” says Thompson port captain Meegan Corcoran.

Though the Thompson is back early due to COVID-19, we sure are happy to see her back at home.