Research Vessel SONNE, Germany

The RV Sonne (German for Sun) is a German deep ocean research vessel. The ship became available for science in December 2014 and it operates mainly in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. She is registered in Wilhelmshaven and replaced its predecessor of the same name.

The Sonne is a multipurpose working platform for marine and related disciplines: physical and biological oceanography, marine geology, marine and atmospheric chemistry, marine geophysics and meteorology. The ship will operate mainly in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.

The research vessel Sonne travels under the Federal Service flag. Its owner is the Federal Republic of Germany, represented by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The ship is thus a state ship. The logo of the BMBF as shipowner of the ship is shown on the deck superstructures.

The sun carries back and starboard in capital letters the English word SCIENCE (science) to underline the scientific purpose. As a further indication of the scientific objective, the logo of the Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Sea of the University of Oldenburg with the abbreviation ICBM is attached to the chimney.

The main areas of application of the sun are the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Here she explores questions about climate change, the consequences of invasion of ecosystems and the supply of marine resources.

After a Europe-wide re-tender, the ship is not as originally planned by the Bremen RF research shipping, but by Briese shipping in Leer beeredert. 40 scientists can live and work on the ship. There are 35 single cabins and lounges available, as well as large laboratories and special facilities. The ship is run by 30 to 35 sailors and ship officers. A total of 60 single cabins and 8 double cabins are available.

The sun broke out in December 2014 for their first exploration cruise. During the first test run, the ARD morning magazine broadcast live from the sun from 20 to 24 October 2014. The sun was transferred in early 2015 through the Panama Canal into the Pacific. After exploring the Discol area and the Clarion Clipperton Zone, the ship headed for New Zealand. From there it drove north to Alaska and after stations in Japan again towards Oceania. From New Caledonia, the sun traveled along the Kermadec volcano to New Zealand. In the autumn of 2017, the sun is to return to Germany for their first shipyard stay.

The sun in December 2016 in the harbor of the New Caledonian capital Nouméa. From there, their journey began in the Kermadec volcanic arc in the South Pacific.

RV Sonne is equipped to cover a wide spectrum of ocean research. An A-frame crane at the stern has a lifting capacity of 30 t. This can be used for deploying submersibles and other heavy equipment. Four cranes with a lifting capacity of 10 t and three small cranes (2 x 2 t and 1 x 0.5 t) allow the transport of research material across the ship. A winch enables deploying devices to the ocean floor to 12,000 m of water depth.

For troubleshooting during the scientific expeditions, the ship is equipped with several workshops: a deck workshop (for heavy mechanical work), an electronic workshop, a machinery workshop (for fine mechanical work) and an electric workshop.

Up to 25 20′ container can be stored on board (4 of them inside). There are 550 m² of scientific laboratories.

The ship covers the “entire scientific spectrum of marine research.” It has a large A-frame crane with a lifting capacity of 30 tonnes at the rear, for example for the deployment of research submarines. Four loading cranes with a lifting capacity of 10 tonnes, three small cranes and a container loading bridge enable the transport of research material throughout the ship. A winch allows the lowering of equipment to the bottom of the sea at 12,000 meters water depth. The ship has a workshop on deck for heavy mechanical work, as well as workshops for electronics, electrical and precision mechanics. An automatic weather station of the German Weather Service measures air temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, air pressure, solar radiation, photosynthetically active radiation, ultraviolet radiation and water temperature. It has a rain gauge and a wave radar. High-precision echosounders are on board for deep-sea surveying (bathymetry) and seismic surveys, and the entire ship is optimized to reduce intrusive noise and a deployable stabilization system with active fins minimizes unwanted self-motion of the ship. An overview of the sun’s nine decks is provided by an interactive graphic from the SO253 expedition blog.

Environmental Standards
German environmental associations criticized in 2013 that the new sun will not have environmental standards. In its mobility and fuel strategy published in 2013, the German government called for the use of SCR catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters. No diesel particulate filter was installed on the federal ship because there was no suitable technology at that time that would continue to provide meaningful vessel operation. The research vessel Sonne is awarded the Blue Angel. The ship refuels low-sulfur diesel fuel, in addition, the exhaust gases are purified by nitrogen oxides. In addition, the optimized hull construction and the diesel-electric drive concept reduce fuel consumption and a waste heat utilization concept increases energy efficiency. Noise and vibration from the engines have been reduced to a minimum by elastically supporting all the units so that they do not give off any vibrations to the hull. This leads to a much lower noise pollution of marine fauna in the water column, said the marine biologist Prof. Dr. med. Angelika Brandt.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) develops and implements educational and research programmes at national and international level and provides funding for national science institutions. It also supports large research facilities and infrastructures including research vessels like the RV SONNE which is pictured here.

The BMBF has been organizing Science Years on topical issues of research since 2000 to enable a dialogue between researchers and the public and arouse people’s interest in research. The 2016*17 Science Year focuses on the seas and oceans. A virtual tour of the RV SONNE has been developed in this context.

The RV SONNE is Germany’s most modern research vessel. It went into service in 2014 and is owned by the Federal Republic of Germany represented by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The RV SONNE can accommodate 40 researchers and around 32 crew members. Measuring 116 metres in length and 21 metres in width, it can travel at speeds of up to 15 knots – that is almost 28 kilometres per hour. The vessel is equipped with echo sounders and various hoists including up to 12 kilometres of wires and cables. In addition to four loading cranes, it hosts 17 labs and a research weather station. The RV SONNE cruises the Pacific and Indian Oceans and carries out marine research activities ranging from climatic to resources exploration.

The Control Station German Research Vessels of the Universität Hamburg looks after the worldwide active research vessels METEOR, MARIA S. MERIAN and RV SONNE.

The staff of the Control Station is responsible for the scientific-technical, logistic and financial preparations, as well as the processing and support of the ship operations. They work closely with the expedition coordinators and contract ocean carrier and report regularly the principals (Federal Ministry of Education and Research and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).

Continuous modernisation is planned together with the ship managements, so that reliable ships are available for scientists.