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Veteran University of Hawaii research ship bids aloha to isles

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - 12/22/2019

Dec. 22--A longtime University of Hawaii oceanographic research vessel was towed this month to Mexico, where it will be recycled for another purpose.

R /V Ka 'imikai-O-Kanaloa served nearly 25 years on scientific voyages for the university across the Pacific Ocean before retiring in 2018. She was built by Mangrove Shipbuilding Co., of Houston in 1979 and served as an offshore supply vessel in the oil and gas exploration field for more than a decade.

In 1992, Alex Malahoff, director of UH's Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, began work on acquiring and reconfiguring the 185-foot, single-hulled vessel to serve as a support vessel for HURL's three submersibles--one remotely-operated vehicle and two human-occupied vessels.

The ship was modified into a 223-foot vessel with a cruising speed of 10 knots, a 15, 000 nautical mile range, 50-day endurance, and room for 14 crew members plus 19 scientists. The vessel had four laboratories with more than 3, 000 square feet of exterior working space.

In January 1994, the Ka 'imikai-O-Kanaloa, Hawaiian for "heavenly searcher of the seas of Kanaloa, " joined UH's fleet of marine expeditionary vessels. Since then, Ka 'imikai has been used in numerous missions, including submersible operations, installation of deep-sea moorings, and studies for marine biology, chemistry and climate change.

Ka 'imikai also was involved in the discovery of the sunken Japanese midget submarine from the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, finding new species in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and monitoring the growth of Lo 'ihi, the underwater volcano off Hawaii island.

The vessel also served in about 95 missions of the Hawaii Ocean Time series program, in which researchers take repeated scientific observations of the water column at Station ALOHA, about 60 miles north of Oahu.

The ship's final expedition was for the HOT program in July 2018. She was sold this fall for an undisclosed amount.

The UH Marine Center, where Ka 'imikai was ported, still has the R /V Kilo Moana, a 186-foot twin hull vessel owned by the Navy. The Kilo Moana was built in 2001.

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