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History of the ARRV Project

In 1973, marine scientists first recognized the need for an ice-capable research vessel for the northern latitudes. The University of Alaska Fairbanks previously operated the R/V Alpha Helix, a 133-foot research vessel, from 1978-2007. The R/V Alpha Helix was sold in August 2007.

R/V Alpha Helix

R/V Alpha Helix

Construction of the R/V Alpha Helix was completed in 1966. The ship operated occasionally in sub-arctic seas (the North Pacific, Bering, and Chukchi Seas) while operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography (1966-1978) and more extensively by the University of Alaska (1978 until it was sold in August 2007 to Stabbert Marine). The Alpha Helix is the oldest currently operated research vessel in the UNOLS fleet. The ship's ice strengthening is modest (ABS Class C), and therefore its suitability for arctic work was subject to severe limitations. A replacement vessel having improved research and ice capabilities will substantially extend the range and capability of research support in these regions of great scientific interest. Download more on the history of the R/V Alpha Helix (History of the Alpha Helix by Tom Smith, former director of the UAF Seward Marine Center; 25KB PDF)

A New Vessel is Needed

The R/V Siquliaq will be capable of general oceanographic investigations in high latitude open seas, near-shore regions, and seasonal sea ice. It will not be expected to encounter multi-year ice during ordinary operations. By these criteria, the ship will occupy an important role not served by any other research vessel in the UNOLS fleet. Further, its functions will differ substantially from those of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, USCGC HEALY, which is intended to support research throughout the Arctic, including the Central Arctic Basin, in conjunction with other national and international interests and operations.