USGS Research Vessel Alaskan Gyre

Science Center Objects

The R/V Alaskan Gyre is a 50-foot fiberglass seiner that has been converted into a versatile research vessel to provide USGS scientists and collaborators with access to remote marine areas of Alaska and serve as a mobile laboratory.  The vessel was built by Ledford Marine of Marysville, Washington in 1989 and is named after the Alaskan Gyre, a series of wind driven currents that rotate counter clockwise in the Gulf of Alaska.

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R/V Alaskan Gyre in Prince William Sound, Alaska

R/V Alaskan Gyre in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
(Public domain.)

Scientists inside the R/V Alaskan Gyre working on computers and with other equipment

Scientists inside the R/V Alaskan Gyre performing hydrographic work.
(Credit: Peter Haeussler, USGS. Public domain.)

Scientific Operations

The vessel can safely and efficiently accommodate many types of scientific activities. A "deck lab" encloses the aft third of the stern work deck. There are several configuration options for the deck lab: 1) completely enclosed, 2) forward wall removed, and 3) completely removed. The vessel is an excellent observation platform and has been used for surveys of marine birds and mammals. The vessel has a state-of-the-art fisheries hydroacoustic system with hull mounted transducers, and is capable of operating a small-meshed research midwater trawl designed to collect krill and forage fish to a maximum depth of 100 m. A hydraulically-controlled boom is often used to deploy heavy equipment and can deck load open-style skiffs up to 5 meters in length.

Equipment permanently installed on the Gyre:

Mayumi Arimitsu sorting through fish caught in the mid-water trawl on the R/V Alaskan Gyre

Mayumi Arimitsu sorting through fish caught in the mid-water trawl on the R/V Alaskan Gyre

(Credit: Sarah Schoen, USGS. Public domain.)

  • Main boom with hydraulic winch (400’ of 5/16” stainless cable)
  • 2 picking booms with hydraulic winches
  • 14” Hydro-Slave pot hauler
  • Kolstrand purse seine deck winch
  • Thermosalinograph
  • SIMRAD 38 and 120 kHz hydroacoustic transducers
  • Electric SCUBA air compressor
  • Deck lab with 110VAC power, lighting, and heating
  • Mid-water trawl gear (2 winches, 1 net reel, 2 gallows, 2 doors)
A layout diagram of the R/V Alaskan Gyre

A layout illustration of the R/V Alaskan Gyre deck.

(Credit: George Esslinger, USGS. Public domain.)

Equipment successfully deployed from the Gyre for multi-disciplinary science missions:

  • Conductivity-temperature-depth profiler and rosette water sampler
  • Side scan sonar
  • Multibeam sonar
  • Towed sonic tracking hydrophones
  • Air guns
  • Sparkers
  • Gravity core
  • Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler
  • Eckman grab sampler
  • Shipeck dredge
  • Tucker trawl
  • Plankton nets
  • Long-line fishery gear (halibut, sleeper shark)
  • Pot gear (Dungeness crab, shrimp, Tanner crab, and king crab)
  • Drop cameras
  • Camera sleds
  • modified herring trawl (with 50 m2 mouth opening, with diminishing mesh size from 5 cm to 1 cm and a 3 mm mesh liner at the cod end)
  • TrawlMaster trawl depth management system
Scientist leaning over side of R/V Alaskan Gyre adjusting the multibeam arm

Scientist leaning over side of R/V Alaskan Gyre adjusting the multibeam arm. 
(Credit: Peter Haeussler, USGS. Public domain.)

Navigation and Communications

A variety of current electronic navigation equipment is onboard including GPS chartplotters, depth sounders, radar, autopilot, magnetic and electromagnetic compasses, and Automatic Identification System. The Gyre can be operated from the wheelhouse or from a steering station on top of the wheelhouse. There are 2 fixed mount VHF radios, 6 waterproof handheld VHF radios, a single-side band radio, and a satellite telephone/email system.

Operational Constraints

The Gyre is operated by a captain with a minimum of a U.S. Coast Guard 100 Ton Master license. To assist the captain, there also must be at least one scientist who is a USGS-certified crewmember on board. The Gyre has a maximum limit of a twelve-hour work day unless special arrangements are made for 2 captains. The Gyre is designed for working in inside and near coastal waters of the Alaska. Because the Gyre has a fiberglass hull, cruising in heavy ice, bergs or pan ice is limited.

Mayumi Arimitsu lowering the instrument to measure oceanographic data from the R/V Alaskan Gyre

Mayumi Arimitsu lowering the instrument to measure oceanographic data from the R/V Alaskan Gyre.
(Public domain.)

Safety

The Alaskan Gyre is outfitted and inspected to comply with USGS Large Vessel Safety Management System policy.

The vessel has the following safety equipment:

  • 1 General alarm
  • 4 Smoke detectors
  • 2 Flame detectors
  • 1 High water alarm
  • 8 PFDs
  • 2 Life rings (1 lighted)
  • 8 Portable fire extinguishers
  • 2 Fixed fire extinguishers in engine room
  • 8 Immersion suits
  • 1 EPIRB (406 MHz GPS)
  • 1 Flare kit (3-parachute, 3 handheld, 3 smoke)
  • 1 Survival kit
  • 1 First aid kit
  • 1 Inflatable life raft - Viking 8 person offshore with SOLAS A-Pack
  • 1 Automated External Defibrillator

The scientific crew is expected to participate in vessel safety and emergency procedure briefings and drills and must show proficiency in donning immersion suits.

Provisioning

The scientific crews aboard the Gyre are responsible for the purchase and preparation of food, as well as washing dishes and cleaning the vessel’s interior and exterior at the end of the cruise. The vessel has a small refrigerator, but on long cruises we increase refrigeration space by keeping perishable food in large coolers stored on deck. A 12cu.ft. freezer is available for storing frozen foods.

In addition to warm clothing and foul weather gear, the scientific crew should bring sleeping bags, towels, washcloths, and personal hygiene supplies. Life jackets are available for use during the cruise.

Bring in the mid-water trawl on the R/V Alaskan Gyre

Bring in the mid-water trawl on the R/V Alaskan Gyre.
(Public domain.)

Galley / Salon

  • Dickinson diesel cook stove/oven also heats the cabin
  • Two burner electric stove
  • Refrigerator/freezer
  • Microwave oven
  • Double stainless sink
  • Coffee maker
  • Dinette with table and bench seating for 6 people

Head (bathroom)

Enclosed; located starboard aft upon entry into main cabin; electronic toilet, sink, vanity and shower.

Berthing

The vessel has berthing for 7 scientists and 1 captain. There are 4 berths in forepeak, 3 in former fish hold, and 1 in the wheelhouse for the captain.

Potable water system

One of two trawl winches on the  R/V Alaskan Gyre

One of two trawl winches on the  R/V Alaskan Gyre.
(Public domain.)

The Gyre carries a total of 550 gallons of tanked potable water distributed by a 12V DC pump. The water supply will last at least ten days with navy showers. Hot water is supplied by a 17 gallon heater in combination with a heat exchanger on the main engine. Hot and cold fresh water are plumbed to the deck for rinsing gear and taking showers.

Propulsion and fuel system

  • 540 HP Caterpillar 3406BDI diesel engine
  • Dry exhaust, keel cooled
  • Hydraulic steering, clutch, and throttle
  • Twin Disc MG-5111A, 2:1 ratio with trolling valve
  • 2.5” stainless propeller shaft with a 4 bladed bronze RH 32” x 23” propeller
  • Two 550-gallon aluminum fuel tanks
  • Two-stage fuel filter system with Racor backup on the primary stage
Hydraulic controls on the aft deck of the  R/V Alaskan Gyre

Hydraulic controls on the aft deck of the  R/V Alaskan Gyre.
(Public domain.)

Auxiliary power

  • John Deere Powertech 2.4L diesel engine
  • Marathon 27 kW generator, wired to provide three phase 110/208VAC
  • Dry exhaust, keel cooled

Electrical Systems

  • Rigged for 30 amp shore power
  • Trace inverter 24VDC input/charge,4000 VA output

Power sources:

  1. 110VAC from 27 kW generator
  2. 208VAC (3-phase) from 27 kW generator
  3. 24VDC from 1 battery bank:
    1. Main engine starting – 2x12VDC 8D in series charged by main engine 24V alternator and combined with inverter bank
    A rigid-hull inflatable on the stern of the R/V Alaskan Gyre

    A view of the inflatable boat rack on the back of the R/V Alaskan Gyre. 
    (Public domain.)

  4. 12VDC from 3 battery banks:
    1. House – charged by main engine 12V alternator and 40A charger
    2. Wheelhouse electronics – charged by charger on inverter power
    3. Generator starting – charged by main engine 12V alternator and 40A charger

Use of brand names is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the USGS.

For more information about the Alaskan Gyre, contact George Esslinger (gesslinger@usgs.gov)

 

 

 

The kitchen area of the R/V Alaskan Gyre

The kitchen area of the R/V Alaskan Gyre. 
(Credit: Peter Haeussler, USGS. Public domain.)