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The Research Vessel Endeavor

The 185-foot Research Vessel Endeavor, based in Rhode Island, has been operated by the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) for thirty years.  Scientists from Rhode Island, the greater US, and abroad, train graduate students and conduct government-sponsored research aboard this vessel that is owned by the US National Science Foundation.  Expeditions have been conducted in nearby Rhode Island waters and in distant locations such as near the Easter and the Galapagos Islands of the South Pacific Ocean, and in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

Rhode Island has a long tradition of valuing the sea, an integral part of our economy and culture.  The identity of Ocean State citizens is tied to fishing, marine research, ocean recreation, and marine technology development and manufacturing.  The Rhode Island Endeavor Program is a state-supported initiative at GSO that provides Rhode Islanders with direct access to R/V Endeavor's scientific research and educational capabilities.  This support underscores Rhode Island's commitment to maintaining a strong program in marine research and education, and to providing new opportunities for Rhode Island industry, scientists, graduate students, teachers, and k-12 classrooms.  R/V Endeavor spends an average of 240 days per year at sea and serves as Rhode Island's ocean-going ambassador in domestic and international ports of call.


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The Institute’s primary visual search system is ARGUS. Towed from a surface ship, it has lateral thrusters at both ends of the 3.5m-long vehicle as well as an attitude package containing an electronic compass and angular rate sensor that makes it possible for ARGUS to maintain a constant heading while being towed to depths of 6,000 meters. A 675 kHz fan-beam scanning sonar serves as the primary acoustic search system.

ARGUS also serves as the relay vehicle between ROVs and the surface ship. When working on the high seas, the surface rises and falls with the open ocean swell. This motion is transmitted down the cable, moving ARGUS up and down with the swell. At times, this motion can be violent, causing ARGUS to rise and fall suddenly. The primary role of the ARGUS operator is to pay cable in and out so that the neutrally buoyant tether connecting ARGUS to an ROV never comes up shot, preventing ARGUS from transmitting its violent up and down motion to the ROV leading to snap load that might damage or sever the tether termination.

Several high-energy HMI lights are mounted on ARGUS’ 1800 kg stainless steel frame. They can include two 1200 and two 400-watt lights with a variety of reflector configurations. With these powerful lights, ARGUS is able to illuminate a large area of the ocean floor in which the ROVs can operate to provide outstanding imaging. ARGUS carries a high-definition video camera mounted on a motorized tilt platform. This tilting ability, coupled with its thruster controls, makes it possible for the ARGUS operator to constantly keep the ROV in its field of view as well as obtain high-resolution video footage and still images of the ROV working beneath it. This "eye-in-the sky” vantage point allows the ROV pilot to see the overall bottom setting in which he is working.

The tow sled, Argus, hangs on the end of a long cable dangling from the ship. Argus is maneuvered primarily by moving the ship and raising and lowering the cable. Thrusters (electric motors with propellers) on Argus allow the pilot to aim its lights and cameras toward sites of interest and Little Hercules.

Technical Specifications

Maximum depth: 6,000 m
Weight in air: 1,000 kgf
Weight in seawater: 1,000 kgf
Length: 3.5 meters


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Little Hercules is a "Remotely Operated Vehicle," or ROV, intended primarily for gathering high quality video images of underwater artifacts. There are no people on board, but Little Hercules allows a pilot and other observers on shipboard to experience visiting the bottom of the ocean almost as though they were there.

Its pressure/depth sonar, altimeter and integrated navigational software make it possible for the pilot to maintain a constant depth, heading or altitude while operating the vehicle. As a result, LITTLE HERC can be used to create photo-mosaics of a wreck site like the Monitor.

Four thrusters allow the pilot to maneuver Little Hercules freely, as long as the tether going back to ARGUS doesn't come taut. The length of the tether is about 30 meters (100 feet). Little Hercules carries a very special, High Definition video camera to provide as much detail as possible to the observers on the ship and elsewhere.

Technical Specifications
Maximum Depth: 4,000 meters
Weight in air: 270 kgf
Weight in seawater: -1 to -4 kgf (slightly positive buoyancy)
Sensors: precision depth/pressure, acoustic altimeter (echosounder), magnetic compass
Length: 120 cm

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