Facts about the R/V Polar Duke and its equipment

How do you study something you can not touch, see, hear, feel or smell? Instruments -- from simple to high-tech -- do the work. The most important instrument an oceanographer can take to the Southern Ocean is a ship. This is the platform from which all other work is done. A good research ship needs to have several attributes:

The R/V Polar Duke is a 219-foot ice strengthened research vessel chartered by Antarctic Support Associates on behalf of the National Science Foundation. In July 1997, the ship will complete its 10 year charter. This is an appropriate time to examine tools and riggings which have effectively gathered Antarctic data for the past decade.

To gather the needed data, the R/V Polar Duke deploys over-the-side equipment for trawling and acoustical studies, SCUBA diving, marine collecting and photographic activity. Some instruments are lowered into the ocean on long cables. Instruments have to be strong to withstand the pressures of the sea yet they must be very sensitive. Instruments often have clever methods of grabbing a sample of what is being studied at a specified depth so it can be brought up to the deck of the ship. Sea-Bird electronics measure temperature, conductivity and depth electronically at about 6,000 meters. The ship also carries and deploys one snowmobile, one Suzuki all-terrain vehicle, and two Zodiacs.

The R/V Polar Duke provides valuable laboratory space and equipment for the scientific community that lives aboard the ship. This lab equipment includes:

The science groups, with their complements of students, staff, and volunteers, operate all of the laboratory equipment and most of the deck equipment. The ship's crew operate the winches. The Lab Supervisor is ultimately responsible for hazardous waste, and will assist in setting up equipments, etc.

To use this equipment, it is necessary that the seawater be free of ice particles which could clog the machinery, and free of trace metals which would contaminate the seawater and give false readings about the dissolved minerals in seawater. Seawater sampling is drawn from the moon pool through epoxy coated steel piping and ice strainers made of nylon and epoxy. Water then flows through PVC pipes. The seawater is free of ice clogs. Temperature and salinity are measured.

The R/V Polar Duke also has eight 24 cu ft aquaria filled with uncontaminated seawater from a seawater intake. Deck incubators with Plexiglas or UV Transparent Plexiglas are available for scientists to use.


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