The Research Vessel Sikuliaq will replace the more than 40-year old R/VAlpha Helix that is now retired and was owned by the National Science Foundation. The need for a more capable ship to operate in the coastal and open ocean waters of the Alaska region was first recognized by marine scientists in the U.S. in 1973.  In 2001, Congress appropriated $1M for a design study.  Sufficient ice strengthening will allow the Sikuliaq to work safely in moderate seasonal ice, operating over a longer period than formerly possible in the North Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Alaska, and the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas.  The design is based on science mission requirements developed by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System community.

Alpha Helix, now retired

Climate change (reflected by Arctic sea ice decreasing by approximately 9% per decade) and increased human use of the region will influence ocean circulation and ecosystem dynamics, impacting biological productivity, marine mammals, and fish stocks.

This technologically advanced platform will allow up to 26 scientists and students, per cruise, to conduct multi-disciplinary studies on these complex issues, and facilitate broadband real-time virtual participation of classroom students in expeditions, including remotely operated underwater vehicles.