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A Tour of R/V Cape Hatteras
by -- May 9th, 2010

R/V Cape Hatteras

R/V Cape Hatteras

We checked her out from stem to stern, but they wouldn’t let us take her out.

The Marine Lab’s fleet ranges from canoes to Carolina skiffs to the aforementioned R/V Susan Hudson, but the big kahuna is the R/V Cape Hatteras, a 135-foot, 300-ton laboratory at sea.

Rebecca Smith, marine superintendent of the R/V Cape Hatteras

Rebecca Smith, marine superintendent of the R/V Cape Hatteras

Marine Superintendent Rebecca Smith, who just joined the lab last month, gave us a behind-the scenes tour of the ship, all clean and smelling good, tied to the pier. The National Science Foundation owns the ship, which was built in 1981, and it’s operated jointly by Duke and UNC.

Rebecca showed us the business end on the stern, where cranes and a-frames are used to lower and lift whatever strange and expensive contraptions the scientists have brought along. The ship can trawl for organisms topside or pick up stuff from the bottom. The lab space is set up with these sort of autopsy tables for checking out the catch of the day.

The galley, with its chairs fixed to the floor and a long shelf of paperbacks, looked kind of like a barber shop, the kindergartner in our group opined. The bridge had more bells and whistles than the bridge of the original Star Trek. Paper charts are so last century, apparently.

Hatteras can go to sea for 25 days at a time and has a cruising range of 7,000 miles, but most cruises are less, Rebecca said. Its duties are along the Eastern seaboard from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Cape Hatteras in her home port at the Duke Marine Lab

The Cape Hatteras in her home port at the Duke Marine Lab

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