After a 4,000-mile journey, a 117-foot twin-hulled ship granted to the University of South Florida (USF) is docked at its new home port in St. Petersburg, where it will be operated by the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) to offer transformative opportunities for students to explore and advance the field of ocean science. SEARCH maritime archaeologists Neil Puckett, Therese Westman, and John Albertson participated in the augural voyage of the vessel.

Called R/V Western Flyer, the ship will be the most technologically advanced vessel in the FIO fleet. You can take a VR tour here.

While FIO’s other research vessels operate primarily within Florida waters, the Western Flyer will embark on expeditions further afield – operating in waters off the southeastern US and stretching into the northern Caribbean Sea. Capable of longer missions and with additional berths, the added capacities will allow more interdisciplinary expeditions including at-sea development opportunities for research, engineering, maritime trades and other STEM careers.

The FIO team is using the Western Flyer to create a new model for ocean science education that leverages the power of sustained mentoring and cohort-based programming, networked workforce development opportunities and remote science technologies. The yearlong program, called Peerside, is launching this summer with a select group of postsecondary students who will explore careers in ocean science, develop beneficial industry connections and conduct ship-to-shore research. SEARCH is proud to serve as a FIO partner for 2023.