R/V Thomas G. Thompson

The research vessel Thomas G. Thompson is 274 feet long and has 22 crew members and officers. In addition 36 scientists and 2 marine technicians can be taken aboard for a research expedition. The Thompson is owned by the Office of Naval Research and operated by the School of Oceanography , University of Washington. The ship works throughout the ocean basins. The Thompson is similar to a small city in that it is self contained with food stores that can supply the crew for > 45 days, fresh water makers that produce 8,000 gallons of water each day, and generators that produce power to run the ship, provide lighting, and power for laboratories, communications, and navigation equipment. It uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) integrated with dynamic positioning (DP) to hold station within 1-2 meters.

The earlier R/V Thompson (AGOR 29) explored the oceans from 1965 to 1991.The modern Thompson is a sophisticated oceanographic research ship with all of the latest technology. It is customized on every research expedition to carry and launch deep-sea, remotely or autonomous submersibles beneath the waves.

The Thompson hosts a variety of remotely operated vehicles such as Jason 2 and the Canadian ROPOS. These ROVs are robots attached to a fiber-optic cable that can dive as deep as 6500 meters while being controlled on the ship. Pilots, scientists and engineers can see through the ROV's "eyes" via many video monitors and use the vehicle's robotic arms to work on the seafloor or in the water column. During this cruise the research vessel is the mother ship for the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason 2 and autonomous underwater vehicle called ABE (Autonomous Benthic Explorer). A newly installed 40W transmitter for this cruise provides real-time communication over a Galaxy 10R satellite to shore for e-mail communications, web access, and first time live transmission of high definition video from the seafloor to shore. The hull of the Thompson hosts a sonar system (EM300) that allows high-resolution bathymetric maps to be made while the ship is steaming at 8-12 knots. This system provides an overview of the seafloor, but for very detailed maps of the seafloor (imaging of features that are (1-5 across), we will use the Autonomous Benthic Explorer.

Instruments and equipment can also be simply lowered from the ship on wires extending as deep as 10,000 meters (over six miles). Equipment can be deployed, seawater properties can be measured and samples such as water, rock, sediment or plankton can be captured and reeled in for study onboard and shore-based analyses. The command center of the ship is in the bridge, where the crew can either steer the ship manually, or under computer control by interrogation of the satellites overhead. A small boat called a zodiac is used to transfer gear and people from the ship to shore, or between research vessels (as was done on the second day of this cruise). When the voyage is over, the Thompson uses its powerful 360-degree thrusters to move the ship sideways into its place at the pier.