Swansea University launches its new £1.3m research vessel

Swansea University's purpose-built £1.3m survey vessel was launched at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay on Monday 27 May.

Unlike other research vessels in the UK, the RV Mary Anning will allow marine biologists to take cutting-edge research equipment to shallow seas and coastal environments, as well as farther offshore.

Named after the early 19th century fossil hunter, the RV Mary Manning, will be used for coastal survey, mapping critical habitats, studying water quality, observing marine wildlife and deploying survey equipment.

Built on Canvey Island in the Thames estuary over 18 months, the 40-tonne, 18m vessel can accommodate 26 passengers locally and has a top speed of 25kts, making it one of the fastest research vessels in the UK, and the fastest in Wales.

It started its four-day maiden voyage from Essex to Swansea, arriving in Swansea on 21 May, the birthday of her namesake, and will be moored in Swansea Marina.

RV Mary Anning

Dr Gethin Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Biosciences, said: “The RV Mary Anning is a game-changer for marine science in the UK. Her highly efficient design, coupled with custom-built features means that marine biology students, researchers and businesses will be able to take advantage of equipment such as drones, multibeam sonars, a marine mammal observation deck, remotely operated vehicles, an on-board wet lab, dry lab and computer lab, a range of advanced instruments, as well as a moon pool and diver lift for deploying equipment and people.

“Equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, the vessel will enable researchers to gain a better understanding of the fantastic and productive waters around south Wales and the Irish Sea. We will be able to go farther, faster, and its draft means we can work on shallow inshore habitats just as easily as offshore sites. This will ensure students and scientists at Swansea, as well as businesses in the marine sector, have access to the latest resources, pushing the boundaries of marine science in the UK.”

The RV Mary Anning was named by Biosciences student Alicia Laing after a naming competition was launched by the university’s College of Science.

Born in Lyme Regis in 1799, Mary Anning was a self-educated, working class woman from the "poor side" of town. Mary was 11 years old when she discovered the complete skeleton of an ichthyosaur – a huge marine reptile which ruled the seas 250 million years ago.  She spent her life as a palaeontologist, and it is believed that she was the first person to ever discover the complete skeletons of an ichthyosaur and a plesiosaur. She is thought to have inspired the tongue-twister "She sells sea shells".