Chesapeake Quarterly
New R/V Rachel Carson Commissioned
R/V Rachel Carson

LEADERS FROM MARYLAND'S academic, scientific, and public policy communities welcomed the Research Vessel Rachel Carson as the flagship of the Chesapeake Bay research fleet. The 81-foot, $4.6 million University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) research vessel expands scientists' abilities to track the pulse of the Chesapeake Bay and pays homage to one of the nation's environmental pioneers.

Christened by First Lady Katie O'Malley on November 16, 2008 at the Annapolis City Dock, the Rachel Carson is a state-of-the art research platform specifically tailored to the needs of Chesapeake Bay scientists. Designed from the ground-up, the ship is large enough to transport research teams up and down the Bay's entire 184-mile length, yet runs shallow enough to allow scientists access to the smallest of critical Bay tributaries.

In addition to her shallow draft, the Rachel Carson is specifically designed to provide a solid foundation for decades of service to UMCES scientists. A state-of-the-art dynamic positioning system allows the vessel to "hover" motionless over one spot regardless of wind and current. A trio of powerful winches allows scientists to launch and retrieve multiple buoys and sampling devices over the side or stern. Built-in electronic sensors will continuously measure the Bay's water quality, biology, and currents whether underway or on station.

The Rachel Carson is named in honor of the world-renowned marine biologist and nature writer who wrote her most influential books while a resident of Maryland. Carson wrote articles about the Chesapeake Bay and the best-seller, The Sea Around Us, which inspired a generation of marine scientists. Ms. Carson is best known for her book Silent Spring, which is credited as being a "wake-up call" for environmental concerns in the United States.

The vessel will replace the aging R/V Aquarius which has ably served Bay scientists since 1972. The Carson begins service in early 2009 and is stationed at the UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons. For more about how the ship was built and about the kinds of research at UMCES, visit

December 2008
vol. 7, no. 4
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