Duke Marine Lab launches new research vessel

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Photo credit: Stephanie Hillsgrove

TOWN OF BEAUFORT – In 2017, Duke University received an $11 million gift to support the construction and operation of a new research vessel for the Duke University Marine Lab. The goals were to design a research vessel that would enhance the education and research activities of the Marine Lab, strengthen community outreach, and support collaborations in academia and the ocean science research community.

The R/V Cape Hatteras (135’) was retired in 2012 and the R/V Susan Hudson (50’) was retired in 2014 – both, after decades of service. The Duke University Marine Lab has two smaller research vessels, the Richard Barber and the Kirby-Smith. Both smaller research vessels are great for taking students and researchers along the North Carolina coastline, nearshore for daylong trips; but neither is equipped to travel longer distances offshore or able to support overnight operations.

The R/V Shearwater, a 77-foot catamaran, will enable Marine Lab faculty and students to travel several hundred nautical miles offshore and to stay at sea for several days; thereby expanding the teaching, research and outreach capabilities at the Marine Lab.


Built and outfitted for year-round operations to support the exploration and investigation of the marine environment, the new vessel will provide students a unique hands-on experience-based opportunity that aligns with the multi-disciplinary nature of ocean science and technology research. It is expected to function as both a research platform and a “classroom at sea.”