RV Melville

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Melville.
USNS Melville T-AGOR-14 1969.jpg
USNS Melville (T-AGOR-14) underway off Bay City, Michigan, 9 July 1969
United States
Name: Melville
Namesake: George Wallace Melville, a noted Arctic explorer and Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering from 1887 to 1903
Builder: Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, Michigan
Laid down: 12 July 1967
Launched: 10 July 1968
Sponsored by: Mrs. Elford A. Cederberg
Acquired: by the U.S. Navy 1 August 1969, as USNS Melville (T-AGOR-14)
In service: 1969, for operation as R/V Melville by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, California
Homeport: La Jolla, California
  • Laboratory Space: 2,636 sq. ft (245 m³)
  • Main Deck Working Area: 4,050 sq. ft (376 m³)
  • Freeboard: 12 feet (3.7 m)
  • Sewage System: MSD,
  • 8,000 U.S. gallons (30,000 L)
General characteristics
Type: Robert D. Conrad-class oceanographic research ship
Tonnage: 2,516 tons (7,125 m³)
Displacement: 2,944 long tons (2,991 t)
Length: 279 feet (85 m)
Beam: 46 feet (14 m)
Draft: 16 feet 6 inches (5.0 m) (maximum)
Propulsion: two 1,385 hp Propulsion General Electric motors, Bow Thruster: 900 hp retractable Azimuth-compensating bow thruster, Two 1385 hp Z-Drive Lips propellers
Speed: Cruising: 11.7 knots (21.7 km/h); Maximum: 14 knots (26 km/h); Minimum: variable to 0, any direction
Range: Range: 10,061 nm (18,633 km, 11,578 mi) at 11.7 knots (fuel)
Endurance: 40 days at 11.7 knots (fuel)
Capacity: Water Capacity: 15,900 gallons (60,200 L)
Complement: 23 civilian mariners, 38 scientists
Armament: none
Notes: Fuel consumption: 3,600 gallons per day (13,600 L/d) (transit)

R/V Melville – originally built as the USNS Melville (T-AGOR-14) -- is a research vessel operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography for oceanographic research. The R/V Melville is the oldest active vessel in the academic research fleet, collectively known as the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System[1] (UNOLS).[2]


The second ship to be so named by the Navy, Melville (AGOR 14) was laid down on 12 July 1967 by the Defoe Shipbuilding Company in Bay City, Michigan, launched on 10 July 1968; sponsored by Mrs. Elford A. Cederberg, wife of Congressman Elford Cederberg; and was completed and delivered to the Navy on 1 August 1969, when she was placed in service with the Military Sea Transportation Service as USNS Melville (T-AGOR 14) chartered to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography for operation.

Though often listed as a Robert D. Conrad-class oceanographic research ship the ship is of an entirely different appearance, design and size as evidenced by Melville's[3] 2,944 vs. Conrad's[4] 1,370 loaded displacement, dimensions of 279' X 46' X 16.6' as opposed to Conrad's 208’10” X 37’5” X 15’2”, general appearance and layout and, most distinctly, completely different propulsion systems and capabilities. Melville's original system was a cycloidal system with propulsion later modified to an advanced system of twin 1,385 hp diesel electric engines driving 1,385 hp Z-Drive Lips[3][5] with a 900 hp Retractable Azimuthing Thruster allowing the ship to move 360° under main engines while Conrad's was single screw 2,500shp diesel-electric with a retractable azmuthing bow thruster.[6]


Melville was named for George Melville, a pioneer arctic explorer and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, who was Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering from 1887 to 1903.

Operating personnel[edit]

A crew of 23 keeps the ship operational, and up to 38 scientists can be accommodated for the purposes of the scientific expedition.

Operational history[edit]

During a career now in its fourth decade, Melville has cruised over almost all the World's oceans in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Modernized in the early 1990s, Melville's hull was lengthened, increasing her displacement to 2670 tons (full-load), and a new propulsion system was installed.

Sister ship[edit]

Melville’s sister ship is the R/V Knorr, best known as the ship which located the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1985, which was also launched in 1968.

Role in the movie “King Kong”[edit]

The Melville was used in the 1976 movie King Kong, starring Jessica Lange. It was used specifically because of its Hypoid propulsion drive (at that time), which allowed it to move sideways. This type of drive is used, on research vessels, for station keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.

Transfer to the Philippine Navy[edit]

The White House confirmed on November 17, 2015 that the Melville and USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) will be transferred to the Philippine Navy as Excess Defense Articles (EDA)s.[7]


  1. ^ http://www.unols.org/info/unols.html | University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System: What is UNOLS?
  2. ^ http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/Releases/?releaseID=927 | Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Scripps News: Scripps Research Vessel Melville Returns after Two-and-a-Half Year Voyage
  3. ^ a b http://shipsked.ucsd.edu/Ships/Melville/specs.php | Scripps Ship Operations, R/V Melville: Specifications
  4. ^ http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/r7/robert_d_conrad.htm | Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Vessels, Robert D. Conrad
  5. ^ http://www.nauticexpo.com/prod/veth-motoren/azimuth-thruster-for-ships-z-drive-31774-192482.html | Azimuth thruster for ships : Z-drive (illustration)
  6. ^ http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/57/5703.htm | NavSource: USNS Robert D. Conrad (T-AGOR-3)
  7. ^ https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/11/17/fact-sheet-us-building-maritime-capacity-southeast-asia

External links[edit]