Kingston, RI — August 25, 2018 — The University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography’s Inner Space Center led a team of natural and social scientists, students and a professional film crew to the Arctic Ocean’s Northwest Passage on August 23 to conduct research aboard the One Ocean Expeditions’ vessel Akademik Ioffe.
One Ocean Expeditions announced on August 24 at 16:40 PST that the Akademik Ioffe became grounded in the western Gulf of Boothia, a body of water in Nunavut, Canada, on Friday morning PST. All passengers and expedition members are safe, and there is no report of any injuries or environmental concerns. The Akademik loffe had refloated by Saturday morning.
University of Rhode Island officials are monitoring the situation and have been in contact with the Canadian Coast Guard, the American Embassy in Ottawa, and One Ocean Expeditions. All URI team members are safe, having been transferred to the Ioffe’s sister ship, the Akademik Vavilov on Saturday afternoon. The Vavilov is scheduled to return to the port of Kugaarkut, Nunavut at 9 am MDT on Sunday, August 26. From there the team members will fly to Yellowknife then to Edmonton and home.
Among the 36-member team, which included 16 undergraduates, four graduate students, and a post-doctoral candidate from universities and colleges around the country and Canada, were four URI Graduate School of Oceanography staff: Dr. Brice Loose, professor of Oceanography and chief scientist of the expedition; Holly Morin, team coordinator and marine mammal scientist; Alex DeCiccio, video producer; and graduate student Zachary Kerrigan.
One Ocean Expeditions said the captain had reported the incident to the appropriate federal and territorial agencies.
“We regret the inconvenience to our passengers and are working closely with the captain, ship owner and all relevant agencies to resolve the situation as quickly and safely as possible. We will provide updates as they become available,” Catherine Lawton, general manager of One Ocean Expeditions, said in a statement.
The three-week expedition was designed to explore the changing Arctic Ocean, the planet’s last great un-navigated maritime frontier. It was to share that experience through the Inner Space Center’s advanced telepresence communications technology with select museums, as well as citizen-scientists, teachers, students and the public.
Using Facebook Live, the Northwest Passage Project would have allowed viewers worldwide to follow the project and discuss the team’s research in a first-ever live interactive broadcast from the fabled Northwest Passage.
The 364-foot research vessel, Akademik Ioffe, equipped with multiple laboratories, cranes, a “moon pool” shaft through the hull to allow lowering and raising of equipment, and a vast array of oceanographic research tools, departed Resolute Bay in the Canadian Arctic, and was to travel south and west to Cambridge Bay (via Bellot Strait), and then return to Lancaster Sound and Pond Inlet, before traveling down the east side of Baffin Island, with many stops along the way. The expedition was to end in Iqaluit, capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, on Sept. 13.
On its website, the tour operator describes the 117-metre Akademik Ioffe as a “modern, comfortable, safe and ice-strengthened” vessel that can host 96 passengers and 65 staff and crew. The company says its three vessels were purpose-built to conduct sensitive hydro-acoustic research and science in the polar regions.
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