A RESEARCH vessel featuring new, state of the art technology will be named after the Irish Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean, it has been announced.
The Marine Institute Ireland has commissioned the €25m ship, which is due to replace its predecessor, the Celtic Voyager, later on this year.
The 52.8 metre “RV Tom Crean” is being assembled in Vigo, northern Spain, and was designed by a Norwegian firm.
After construction is completed, it will eventually dock and be permanently based in Galway, from where it will undertake important research related to fisheries, oceanography, and the marine environment.
Funding for the project came from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The vessel will honour the celebrated Kerry mariner and explorer, Tom Crean, who was a prominent figure in the golden age of polar exploration at the turn of the 20th century.
He took part in three expeditions to Antarctica between 1901 to 1917 and was awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving for a spectacular act of bravery – during the Terra Nova Expedition – after embarking on a 35-mile trek to save his beleaguered comrade, Edward Evans.
The design of the new vessel enables it to maximise fuel efficiency, reducing the carbon footprint from its interhemispheric voyages.
RTE reports that Aodhán Fitzgerald, project manager at the Marine Institute, said RV Tom Crean will significantly improve the institutes research capabilities.
"It will bring a whole new level of marine science to the nation. It's a bigger and more capable vessel than the smaller Celtic Voyager that it's replacing, so it will be able to handle bigger seas and operate year-round of the west coast.
"This vessel will be able to accommodate more scientists as well as newer and more specialised equipment and technology," Mr Fitzgerald said.
RV Tom Crean will carry on the work that Celtic Voyager was engaged in, including the Infomar project to map the seabed.
The new vessel will also be used to service Irish weather buoys and to train up third-year university students of marine science and other related fields.
Lorcán Ó Cinnéide, a panellist of the project's oversight committee, told RTE that Crean was an apt namesake or the new vessel.
He said: "It's a state-of the art vessel that is going to be conducting extraordinary, cutting-edge research of international importance in Irish seas.
"It's named after a man who explored in the most distant, difficult and unreachable places in the early part of the 20th century.
"I think there is a fantastic meeting of values in the selected name. It is a fitting tribute to the man, and I think it's highly appropriate as an inspiration for the scientists who will be using that vessel."
Upon hearing the news, John Hanafin, a local man from Crean’s native village of Annascaul said: "We're absolutely delighted. Tom Crean is finally being given official, national recognition for his brave deeds. Tom Crean is a legendary figure.
"We feel it's very appropriate that the new vessel will carry his name, considering the hardship he had to endure on the southern oceans over a hundred years ago. We're extremely proud in Annascaul”.
The ship is due for completion in August of this year and the Marine Institute aims for it to be fully operational by summer 2022.