The Blue Heron: A Research Vessel for the Great Lakes
“Research vessels are highly advanced mobile research stations, providing stable platforms from which explorers can deploy equipment, divers, and submersibles. In addition, these vessels carry state-of- the-art electronics, computers, and navigational and communications systems.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Blue Heron is a research vessel operated by the Large Lakes Observatory in Duluth. It began its life as a fishing vessel in 1985 off the coast of Newfoundland. The Blue Heron was purchased by the University of Minnesota in 1997, and converted to a research vessel. It is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and can hold up to 11 crew and scientists (typically four crew members, one marine technician who operates all the scientific gear, and up to six scientists).
We were given a tour of the Blue Heron by Doug Ricketts, marine superintendent for the vessel. He explained that the majority of time, the vessel is used by scientists for research on the Great Lakes, but that it is also sometimes used for educational purposes for students at the university.
The Blue Heron can travel up to only 9 knots in speed (about 10 miles per hour), and be out at sea for up to three weeks before returning to shore. Within that time period, it can reach all of the Great Lakes, which are connected to each other by rivers and a series of locks and dams. A typical research cruise for the vessel lasts about four days.
Watch the video story above to explore the Blue Heron and learn more about its work on the Great Lakes. Also check out our video story about the Large Lakes Observatory and the work scientists are doing there on lakes around the world.