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Research vessel arrives home

(May 24, 1999)   —   After a 12-day voyage including dozens of stops at river locks along the Erie Canal, East Carolina University new research vessel arrived May 24 at its home port in Washington, N.C.

The newly named R/V Perkins, a 65-foot laboratory cruiser formerly owned by the Environmental Protection Agency, was acquired by ECU as government surplus to be used by the Maritime Studies Program and other departments involved in coastal research.Maritime Studies conducts surveys and excavations of historical shipwrecks.

"The last couple of days have been rough going," said Dr. Timothy Runyan, director of Maritime Studies, as he stepped ashore Monday morning. He was among the six-member crew who brought the ship to Washington from its port in Bay City, Mich.

It had sailed across Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. As it traveled down the Erie Canal the ship waited through 36 locks. There were stops in Cleveland and New York City and numerous smaller towns.

Over the weekend, the vessel left the relative safety of the Hudson River in New York and steamed into the Atlantic Ocean for the final leg of its journey. Storms in the Atlantic on Saturday and again on Sunday as the vessel passed through Oregon Inlet into the Pamlico Sound kept the crew on their toes.

"We didn't sleep last night," said Runyan. "The Pamlico Sound was the roughest part of the trip." Before becoming a part of an ECU fleet of smaller boats, the R/V Perkins was named the R/V Hydra.

It was built in 1953 as a U.S. Army T-boat. Until 1997, the vessel was operated in the Great Lakes by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor water quality. The ship was overhauled about four years ago and sat idle at its dock in Bay City, Mich. until ECU acquired it. Runyan said he had tracked the vessel for several years and as soon as it became federal surplus, he began efforts to acquire the ship as an ECU research vessel.

A grant to support the boat's relocation to North Carolina was awarded by the Perkins Trust of Greenville. James Cheatham, a former Greenville attorney, and Edward Smith, president of Grady-White Boats Inc., contributed to the project. Cheatham, the author of "Turkey Shoot," a book about World War II naval actions off the coast of North Carolina, met the research vessel when it docked on Monday and presented Runyan and other members of the crew with an ECU Pirate flag. The vessel will be used in near-shore and offshore underwater research work.

On board is a science laboratory, a kitchen, sleeping quarters for up to eight people and a stern dive-platform. On the front deck of the ship is a Dunbar crane capable of lifting more than five tons. It is docked along the Washington waterfront near the city's new Esturarium.

On board the ship for the voyage from the Great Lakes in addition to Runyon were: Mark Padover, an ECU graduate student and the boat's captain; Wayne Lusardi, a state underwater archaeologist; Frank Cantelas and Bradley Rodgers, ECU Maritime Studies faculty; and Barry Rodgers, a volunteer. Next week, ECU's annual Summer Field School in nautical archaeology begins a survey of shipwrecks in Washington's harbor. Students and faculty archaeologist will make dives on old shipwrecks that sank in the harbor near Castle Island. The work of the field school will be conducted aboard smaller boats.


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481