USGS commissions, christens new research vessel

Aug 8, 2014

The United States Geological Survey has added a new research vessel to its Great Lakes fleet, which will help monitor the health of Lake Ontario.

The new boat replaces a boat that was in use for fifty years and was finally decommissioned a couple years ago. The Research Vessel Kaho, which means searcher or hunter in Ojibwe, was commissioned and christened in Oswego Wednesday morning, even though it's been in use since last year.

Capt. Terry Lewchanin says the 70-foot-long all-aluminum boat is a major upgrade compared to the all-steel vessel it's replacing, both in terms of technology and overall use.

"The old boat traveled about 12 miles an hour," Lewchanin said. "This one can go up to 17 miles per hour. It rides better, less maintenance involved, more powerful. And we also have acousticating capabilities that the old boat didn't have."

The R/V Kaho docked in Oswego.
Credit Gino Geruntino / WRVO

The Kaho is equipped with two 12-inch hydroacoustic tubes, which are used to help count plankton and fish, and help the USGS study the lake's ecosystems.

Lewchanin says the Kaho's technology can also be upgraded and changed depending on the need.

"That's one thing with life on a ship, is it's constantly evolving," Lewchanin said. "So when new things come out, or if a biologist finds that there's a new instrument that he needs to have to collect a sample, we'll go and we'll install it and modify the boat to match that piece of equipment, so we're able to use it."

Lewchanin says he expects the Kaho to remain in use for 50 years before it needs to be replaced.

Construction of the Kaho was funded by an $8.2 million award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and was completed in 2012. The USGS currently has five research boats in its Great Lakes Science Center fleet. The Kaho is the only boat not named after a Great Lakes fish genus or species.