RRS James Cook

Named in February 2007 by HRH Princess Anne, the Royal Research Ship James Cook is the newest vessel in the UK's science fleet, operated by the National Environment Research Council (NERC). Our expedition is the 44th voyage of the ship.

The Cook is 89 metres long by 18.6 metres wide, has a draft of 5.5 metres, and a displacement of 5800 tonnes. Her cruising speed is 12 knots, and she carries around 700 tonnes of fuel, enabling her to remain at sea for up to two months at a time.

At the top of the ship's superstructure, the all-round windows of the Bridge give an excellent 360-degree view, allowing the Master or Officer of the Watch to oversee operations. The ship is fitted with a dynamic positioning system that allows the vessel to be manoeuvered very precisely, using GPS navigation.

The ship's engine spaces and mechanical systems are constantly monitored by a network of sensors, which trigger series of alarms to alert the ship's engineers in the event of a fault. Fresh water is made on board, and all sewage is treated so that only pure water is disposed at sea.

There are eight laboratories, which can be customised for different scientific expeditions. The main lab is the hub for science activity, with more than 50 monitors displaying data from the ship's scientific instruments. As standard, the ship is equipped with underway sensors that monitor the temperature and salinity of surface waters, and the currents in the upper ocean. The ship also carries several sonar systems, including a multibeam bathymetry system for mapping the seafloor.

The multibeam system can produce a 1 : 50 000 scale map of the ocean floor below us, which is the same scale as a standard Ordnance Survey land map. The system can map an area equivalent to two OS maps each day - but nevertheless it would still take 150 years of continuous operation to map the unexplored deep ocean.

The aft deck is equipped with a variety of specialist cranes and winches, capable of lifting up to 30 tonnes, for launching and recovering equipment and underwater vehicles. The ship carries 15 kilometres of cable for towing instruments in the deep ocean.

The ship can accommodate a total of 54 people, and we each have our own cabin. For our off-watch leisure time, there's a library, lounge, video room and gym. The fore deck is also a popular spot for getting some fresh air in good weather. But for most of us, the galley is one of the most important areas on the ship, delivering three square meals a day. Although fitted out like any other professional kitchen, there are two key differences: it moves constantly with the motion of the ocean, and stores enough food for three months at sea.

Want to dive deeper?

Take an interactive tour of the ship

Read more about the RRS James Cook naming ceremony


Take a tour of our research ship and our undersea vehicles, sensors and systems for exploring the ocean floor.
What are we using?