The National Science Foundation (NSF) joined Marinette Marine Corporation and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Saturday to launch the research vessel Sikuliaq.
The ship, hailed by the NSF as a "next-generation" global class research vessel, was built by Wisconsin workers at Marinette Marine.
Alaska-Fairbanks' School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences will operate the ship as part of the U.S. academic research fleet.
"It's is one of the most advanced research vessels in the world," said NSF Director Subra Suresh. "Its capabilities to operate in extreme ecosystems will serve the science and engineering research communities for decades to come, while providing opportunities for educators and students to learn first-hand about the Arctic environment."
The NSF says it invested nearly $200 million in stimulus money into the contract with Marinette to build the ship.
The name, Sikuliaq, is from a native Alaskan language and means "young sea ice."
The vessel is uniquely equipped for operating in ice-covered waters, with a reinforced double hull, two rotating thrusters, and scalloped propeller blades enabling it to break through first-year ice up to 2.5 feet thick.
Sikuliaq will depart on its first
science mission in early 2014.
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