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University research vessel gets Alaska Native name


Fairbanks, Alaska-The University of Alaska Fairbanks has chosen a name for the 254-foot Alaska Region Research Vessel. The vessel will be called the R/V 'Sikuliaq,' pronounced [see-KOO-lee-auk.] Sikuliaq is an Inupiat word meaning "young sea ice."

The Sikuliaq will be an oceanographic research vessel capable of breaking ice up to 2.5 feet thick. Last month, the university chose Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wis. to build the Sikuliaq. When completed in 2013, the ship will be one of the most technologically advanced oceanographic vessels in the world.

"The name 'Sikuliaq' reflects both our Alaska heritage as well as our focus on arctic research," said UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers. "As Alaska's first university in a relatively young and growing state, we are proud of our role in bringing to fruition this vital addition to the American research fleet."

A committee of scientists and university staff members chose the name after receiving more than 150 suggestions from the public. After consulting with the UAF Alaska Native Language Center, the committee recommended the name "Sikuliaq."

"Naming the ARRV 'Sikuliaq' is a tribute to the Native people of the Arctic who know so much about sea ice," said Craig George, senior wildlife biologist for the North Slope Borough. "'Sikuliaq' is a name everyone can enjoy and be proud of--scientists and Native people alike."

The Sikuliaq's home port will be at the UAF Seward Marine Center.  The vessel will be owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by UAF as part of the U.S. academic research fleet. Scientists in the U.S. and international oceanographic community will use the vessel through the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System.

John Kelley, a UAF professor of oceanography and longtime arctic researcher, says the name is appropriate.

"The name 'Sikuliaq' reminds me of my first experience in 1960 on young sea ice when I went on a seal hunt with Pete Sovalik, an extraordinary Native naturalist from the village of Barrow. Fear of the thin ice set in at first, but my companion's reassuring example strengthened my desire to explore more of this ice-covered ocean," said Kelley.

In addition to its ice-breaking capabilities, the ARRV will allow researchers to collect sediment samples directly from the seafloor, host remotely operated vehicles, use a flexible suite of winches to raise and lower scientific equipment, and conduct surveys throughout the water column and sea bottom using an extensive set of research instrumentation.

"The Sikuliaq will carry many young scientists as well as old veterans of arctic research into this polar sea for many years of exploration and discovery," said Kelley.

About SFOS
The UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences conducts world-class marine and fisheries research, education and outreach across Alaska, the Arctic and Antarctic. 60 faculty scientists and 150 students are engaged in building knowledge about Alaska and the world's coastal and marine ecosystems. SFOS is headquartered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and serves the state from facilities located in Seward, Juneau, Anchorage and Kodiak.
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