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All Aboard: Research Vessel ready to Explore and Educate

The 45-foot Ocean Explorer offers Virginia Wesleyan students across the academic disciplines invaluable hands-on experience using research-quality equipment to collect marine organisms, sediment and water samples.

By Megan Z. Shearin | September 29, 2009

altIt's like a floating laboratory - equipped with the latest technology and equipment for research and exploration. It features a flybridge observation deck, tuna tower, cabin with galley, v-berth and chart table and on-board computer system with wi-fi connectivity. Specialized equipment for marine research and a marine winch and crane are connected at the stern.

It†s the Ocean Explorer, a 45-foot research vessel that has been outfitted to operate in coastal waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay and mid-Atlantic region. The boat will be used by Virginia Wesleyan College and The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.

Virginia Wesleyan faculty, students, staff, and trustees, along with Aquarium staff members and trustees and Virginia Beach City officials, christened the vessel in a special ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Cheers erupted as the symbolic pouring of champagne over the port, starboard and stern of the boat was led by lead donors Jane Batten, Tom Broyles and Tom Lyons. Guests were then allowed aboard for the first time and enjoyed a boat tour of Owls Creek.

"With Virginia Wesleyan's proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean, Great Dismal Swamp, metropolitan Hampton Roads, and numerous military facilities, our students are in a prime geographic location to conduct research on our surrounding environment," said Virginia Wesleyan President Billy Greer during the event. "Our high-energy faculty members are excited to provide inquiry-guided learning experiences and undergraduate research opportunities for students."

The vessel will embark on its first journey with Virginia Wesleyan students in late October or early November, said Assistant Professor of Marine Biology Soraya Bartol. Bartol and her science colleagues are excited for Virginia Wesleyan students to use research-quality equipment and collect marine organisms, sediment and water samples.

Other major features of the Ocean Explorer include: 700 hp Caterpillar marine diesel engine, 12 kw Northern Lights marine generator, expansive deck space, full electronics with satellite phone, and a transom door and swim platform. The vessel†s home port will be at the Aquarium.

"This vessel is a wonderful partnership and we hope to do some programming together with the College," said Virginia Aquarium Executive Director Lynn Clements.