Skip to main content
Research

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Marine Operations

Since 1953 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has operated distinguished research vessels that enable LDEO to conduct pioneering explorations of our planet's oceans and seafloor.  Affiliated with the Earth Institute, LDEO currently operates the R/V Marcus G. Langseth that serves as the national seismic research facility for the United States academic research community.  

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's Office of Marine Operations (OMO) currently operates the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth that serves as the national seismic research facility for the United States academic research community. The R/V Marcus G. Langseth's unique seismic capability allows it to provide both 2D and 3D maps of the earth's structure miles below the seafloor. Utilizing the vessel's other capabilities, expeditions have collected sediment cores for understanding climate variations throughout the Earth’s history, sampled seawater for determining physical and chemical properties of the oceans, and deployed remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for studying submarine volcanoes. Scientists and researchers from all over the world are encouraged to participate in research programs aboard the Langseth.

The R/V Langseth is a part of University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), an organization of 62 academic institutions and National Laboratories involved in oceanographic research and joined for the purpose of coordinating oceanographic ships' schedules and research facilities.

The R/V Langseth is distinct among ships in the academic fleet in that it is a designated National Facility. This status highlights the Langseth’s key role in serving a broad community by providing a unique capability to image beneath the oceans. Unlike other ships in the fleet, the Langseth science operations are reviewed by the Marcus Langseth Science Oversight Committee (MLSOC), which consists of scientists from the community and serves as a liaison between the science community, the facility operator, and the NSF.

Since 1953 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observtory has operated distinguished research vessels that collectively have enabled LDEO to conduct pioneering explorations of our planet's oceans and seafloor.  LDEO currently operates the R/V Marcus G. Langseth that serves as the national seismic research facility for the United States academic research community.  Looking back, LDEO has operatied four distinguished research vessels – the Vema, the Conrad, the Eltanin, and of course the Maurice Ewing – which, collectively, have enabled the Observatory to conduct explorations of our planet’s oceans and seafloor for over half a century.

Today’s methods of marine geophysical research are evolving faster every year. Indeed, it was in the process of planning for the Ewing’s midlife refit that the scientific community came to the conclusion that, even with such a refit, she would not be able to provide the advanced tools that are required to conduct such research in this new century. Thus the decision was made to acquire a new seismic vessel that would be better suited to these new scientific requirements. And, in Western Legend, a commercial seismic exploration vessel owned by Western Geco, Inc., the ideal candidate was found.

The National Science Foundation provided funding of more than $20 million to support the purchase and refit of the Western Legend, which, after a year-long outfitting with modern laboratories and scientific equipment, will become the most capable academic research vessel utilizing acoustic and seismic technologies in the world. Newly created laboratory spaces and deck space configurations are able to be optimized for ocean-bottom seismometer operations or general oceanography.

Science survey tracks of all research ships operated by Lamont: Vema, Eltanin, Conrad and Ewing.

The new vessel, renamed the Marcus G. Langseth, in honor of the late Lamont scientist, can tow four 6-kilometer-long streamers. It is equipped to carry out two- and three-dimensional imaging of the ocean floor and the Earth’s deep interior. These seismic cross-sections, like medicine’s CAT scans and sonograms, enable us to peer directly into the Earth. Even better, because the receiving systems used by the new vessel to record the sounds that probe the Earth’s interior are substantially more sophisticated than those found onboard the Ewing, the Langseth’s greatly improved imaging capabilities will not come at a cost of increased sound levels transmitted into the ocean, thus minimizing possible impacts upon marine life.

What this exciting new research vessel will allow research about seafloor spreading, earthquakes, magma flow, gas hydrate deposits, continental drift, and more, will expand scientific knowledge about the Earth and contribute to our ability as humans to withstand its extreme forces.

Submit Content

Share your research or scholarly works to be posted on the site.