In an emotional moment for scientists and others at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the research ship R/V Knorr has returned to shore for the last time after more than 40 years of service.
Perhaps best known for finding the wreckage of the Titanic in the icy waters off Newfoundland, the Knorr has sailed from the frigid oceans of the north to the planet’s southernmost seas, logged almost 1.4 million miles, and crossed the equator 43 times, according to a report by The Boston Globe.
In a particularly stunning discovery, scientists aboard the Knorr found giant six-foot-long tube worms flourishing next to hydrothermal vents on the volcanic seafloor off the Galapagos Islands in conditions once thought to be inhospitable to life.
Drones flew overhead, a cannon fired from the dock in a celebratory and solemn salute as Captain Kent Sheasley, who has taken the vessel on voyages through fair weather and foul, steered the Knorr into port for the final time.
“It’s the end of an era,” said Sheasley in the Globe report. “It’s hard to really fully comprehend that this is it.”
Sheasley told the Cape Cod Times that the ship had weathered hurricanes, 70-foot waves, and icebergs in the arctic. “This is one of the best riding ships in bad weather,” he said. “I trust this boat.”
The crew stuck handmade farewell banners on the sides of the vessel, according to newspaper. One read: “1,360,630 miles for science.” Another said only: “So long, old girl.”
The Knorr is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Woods Hole. The research ship is being decommissioned and reportedly will be sold.
But there is good news. The Knorr will be replaced next spring by a spanking new $74 million research vessel, christened the Neil Armstrong.