Thursday, September 5, 2002

University of Hawaii

As a SWATH vessel, the Kilo Moana, shown upon arrival Tuesday, offers a smooth cruise by riding largely above the waves. Its superstructure rests on narrow supports connected to twin submerged hulls that cut through the water like submarines.

Research ship
excites scientists

UH's new Kilo Moana will
set sail Sept. 21 to investigate
nutrients in the central Pacific

By Helen Altonn

The University of Hawaii will be one of seven oceanographic institutions launching a five-year, $5 million research program this month with the Navy's new research vessel Kilo Moana.

The $45 million ship arrived Tuesday at the UH marine center at Snug Harbor, Sand Island, to an informal welcoming party by family members, friends and scientists in the School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology, which will operate it.

"This sort of facility is really important for an educational institution because it gets our students to sea and it provides entree to science at its best, with premier facilities that students can use hands-on and see how it's really done," said Brian Taylor, UH geology-geophysics professor who has managed the ship project for SOEST.

Built for the Navy in Jacksonville, Fla., the unique SWATH (small water plane area twin hull) research vessel made an impressive entrance into Honolulu Harbor with silk ilima and maile leis strung over its bow.

"This is big time, really a major facility," said SOEST Dean C. Barry Raleigh, recalling heavy competition with larger oceanographic institutions that wanted the ship.

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye played a major role in getting it assigned to Hawaii as part of the Navy's University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System and persuading Congress to appropriate money to build and operate it.

UH now is "the largest of competitors" to Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with a ship that "will lead every scientist to want to use for research," Raleigh said.

Oceanographer Eric Firing praised the research ship's sea floor mapping capabilities Tuesday.

Scientists asked for a SWATH design for the ship to provide a stable research platform.

Given a Hawaiian name for "oceanographer" or "one who is looking for understanding of the deep sea," the ship will leave Sept. 22 on a National Science Foundation-sponsored "biocomplexity program."

It will sweep about 1,000 miles of ocean to the dateline from a site about 60 miles north of Oahu called Station ALOHA, said UH biological oceanographer David Karl.

Scientists will investigate the effects of complex biochemical and climate processes on the ecosystem and look particularly at how much dust is coming into the Pacific from western China's deserts, he said.

The dust is the major iron source for microorganisms that fix nitrogen (convert nitrogen molecules) for food, but land-use changes over time could starve the ocean, Karl said.

Nitrogen-fixing organisms were discovered at Station Aloha.

UH scientists who sampled Kilo Moana's capabilities en route to Hawaii from Florida said they could do things that are not possible on a conventional single-hull ship.

Mapping researcher Bruce Appelgate and oceanographer Eric Firing, chief scientists on the cruise, praised the ship's stability and mapping capabilities and "fantastic crew."

"We can take measurements under a wider range of conditions. This was really illustrated on our cruise with the ocean bottom mapping sonar," Firing said.

Appelgate said the ship ran from a hurricane off Baja California and went through 18-foot waves "like butter" while mapping the sea floor.

Gary Jensen of the Office of Naval Research, who was on one leg of the cruise, said Kilo Moana "is very impressive, a wonderful addition to the AGOR (oceanographic research class) fleet."

UH, he said, is "very fortunate" to have the ship.

University of Hawaii

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