March 17, 2012 - The Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) announced that the research vessel (R/V) Falkor officially received her new name in a private ceremony at the Peters Schiffbau shipyard in Germany on March 6, 2012.
In a dedication address, Schmidt Ocean Institute President and Co-Founder Dr. Eric Schmidt said that converting the ship from a German fishery protection vessel to a research ship took three years of careful and collaborative ingenuity. R/V Falkor’s metamorphosis from a German fishery protection vessel into a modern, multi-functional scientific research ship resulted from the remarkable talents, expertise, and dedication of the conversion team and the crew, in combination with a thoughtful, iterative design. The result is a state-of-the-art scientific platform that will allow the SOI to support the very best research and attract the best scientists with the best ideas to collaborate onboard and at sea. Over the following decade, the Schmidt Ocean Institute R/V Falkor is anticipated to be one of the best privately funded research ships in the world.
SOI Vice President and Co-Founder Wendy Schmidt explained that scientific findings resulting from studies aboard R/V Falkor will be shared with and communicated to global audiences. Mrs. Schmidt also read two passages from “The Neverending Story,” a German fantasy novel by Michael Ende, describing how the character luck dragon Falkor inspired the ship’s name. She presented the design of an amulet for R/V Falkor, consisting of two different snakes, intertwined, one representing the imaginary world of Fantastica, and the other representing reality, along with the words "Do What You Wish" (German: "Tu, was du willst").
According to Dr. Schmidt, R/V Falkor will be undergoing extensive field trials in 2012 to test and calibrate all embedded systems and new scientific equipment in preparation for research cruises that will start in 2013.
In 2013, SOI is planning to conduct at least three oceanographic research cruises with collaborating US and Canadian scientists. These cruises will contribute to the understanding of world's oceans in several important ways, exploring the deepest hydrothermal vents ; characterizing oxygen depletion rates in the oceans and mechanisms for adaptation in oxygen-poor environments; , and investigating the consequences of global-scale cataclysms on the climate and biosphere of our planet.
Topics for oceanographic research cruises in 2014 have not yet been finalized, but SOI has already received more than 60 expressions of interest in collaborative research from scientists all around the world. These will be carefully evaluated over the next few months as part of the 2014 SOI research program planning process, with final decisions anticipated in July, 2012.
R/V Falkor was purchased in 2009 from the German government. Since 2009, R/V Falkor has been skillfully modified to accommodate an array of research facilities and sophisticated scientific instruments onboard, and most major conversion tasks have already been completed, including the construction of laboratories and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) control room, as well as the installation of overboarding equipment and scientific echosounders. Highlights include the following:
• A new equipment staging hangar adjacent to the main deck house.
• Working deck space aft, open for equipment deployment operations, including the space where the original helideck support structure was removed.
• A new light aluminum helideck atop the laboratory and equipment staging bay for light helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
• A comprehensive suite of scientific echosounders, including Kongsberg EM710 and EM302 multibeam echosounders, a EA600 multi-frequency single beam echosounder, a Simrad EK60 multi-frequency fishery research system, a EH90 high definition omnidirectional fishery sonar, a Knudsen CHIRP 3260 single-beam subbottom profiling system, two Teledyne acoustic doppler current profilers, and a Sonardyne Ranger 2 ultra-short base line system for the positioning and remote navigation of submarine equipment and deployed vehicles.
• A wet lab to provide fresh and sea water supply, including general purpose and uncontaminated sea water, compressed air, fume hood, -20 and -80 C freezers and refrigerator, flow-through seawater analysis system, and other research facilities.
• On the main deck, a general purpose dry lab, an ROV control room with scientific echo sounder workstations, and data and video processing systems.
The ship is expected to be prepared for full scientific operations in early 2013, following the completion of field trials, during which all systems onboard will be tested by the crew and marine technicians, along with invited engineering experts and scientists, to ascertain that the performance of all equipment and instrumentation satisfies the rigorous expectations of future scientific collaborators. At that time, R/V Falkor will be able to navigate across the largest oceans with up to 20 scientists and mission personnel onboard.
In Q3 of 2012, R/V Falkor will cross the Atlantic Ocean to the East Coast of the U.S. and then head South into the Gulf of Mexico. In mid-2013, Falkor will transit into the North Eastern Pacific Ocean, followed by crossing the Central Pacific and reaching Guam in 2014.
-Written by Victor Zykov for Schmidt Ocean Institute