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UD's new research vessel officially commissioned

UD’s new 146-foot research vessel Hugh R. Sharp dockside at UD’s Lewes campus.

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3:36 p.m., May 8, 2006--The University of Delaware's new Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp was formally commissioned on Sunday, May 7, at UD's Lewes campus. Members of the family of the late Hugh Rodney Sharp, UD trustee and benefactor for whom the ship was named, then joined UD President David P. Roselle to unveil the ship's name.

The $18.6+ million state-of-the-art research vessel was christened on July 16, 2005, during ceremonies at the Dakota Creek Industries shipyard in Anacortes, Wash., and arrived at the Lewes campus on Jan. 11. The Hugh R. Sharp replaced the Research Vessel Cape Henlopen, UD's first research vessel that was in continuous service since 1976.

Roselle announced that the Hugh R. Sharp passed a rigorous inspection process and was found to be in compliance with the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) safety standards, thus earning designation as a UNOLS vessel.

The 146-foot ship, the nation's most advanced coastal research vessel, was designed by Bay Marine of Barrington, R.I., and built by Dakota Creek Industries. It has a modular design to enhance flexibility of use and features modern laboratories onboard, as well as the capability to carry two additional portable laboratories.

Nancy Targett, dean of UD's College of Marine Studies, said the ship has a north-south range from Maine to Florida, but most of its work will be done in Mid-Atlantic coastal waters. The vessel is scheduled to spend approximately 200 days at sea in the next year, one of the heaviest schedules for a UNOLS vessel, thanks to the can-do attitude of Captain Bill Byam and his crew, Targett said.

Researchers from other institutions, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the University of Maryland, the U.S. Navy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are scheduled to use the ship, but UD scientists will be sailing on the ship on about 30 percent of its trips.

The diesel-electric vessel's design also may allow for testing and fitting to incorporate new fuel-cell technologies as they develop. Noise Control Engineering of Billerica, Mass., produced a design to ensure that the ship will be as quiet as possible when under way, in keeping with the high standards recommended in the International Convention for Exploration of the Seas. The standards are based on the hearing ability of fish and were adopted so that during science operations, the ship itself does not influence the behavior of the fish being studied.

Matthew Hawkins, director of marine operations, said that in some modes of operation, the Hugh R. Sharp is quieter than the ambient noise of the ocean. “That's quieter than clicking shrimp,” he said.

In the early 1970s, Hugh R. Sharp, the great-great-grandson of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the founder of the DuPont Co., helped raise money to purchase the Cape Henlopen, by organizing a group of private philanthropists known as "Plank Owners."

Participating in the commissioning are (from left) Dave Longdale of Dakota Creek Industries shipyard; Matthew Hawkins, director of marine operations for UD; Bill Sharp; Donnan Sharp Jones; Rod Sharp; Carolyn Thoroughgood, vice provost for research; Nancy Targett, dean of the College of Marine Studies; and UD President David P. Roselle.
“Hugh Sharp both loved and was intrigued by the sea and his enthusiasm for its study and exploration was infectious,” Roselle said during the ceremony. “We are indebted to Hugh Sharp and the Sharp family for their legacy of philanthropy to our University, a legacy that began with Hugh's father, H. Rodney Sharp, more than 100 years ago.”

Sharp was the founding president of Marine Associates, a group of individuals whose mission is the support and advocacy of marine research and education. He also helped to establish several laboratories and an endowed professorship in marine biochemistry. The University's campus in Lewes also is named for him.

“Mr. Sharp will always be remembered for his wise counsel and for his gentle enthusiasm,” Roselle said. “He was a man admired by many. He was a man proud of his service to his country as a pilot in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. Hugh Sharp was a member of the board of trustees at the time the Graduate College of Marine Studies came into being. He was a fundamental force in the college's early growth and development and was always a champion of the college.”

Article by Martin Mbugua
Photos by Jon Cox

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