CORVALLIS - An Oregon State University research vessel honoring Native American traditions and Oregon natural resources is scheduled to start service next summer and will be operated by OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

The 54-foot research vessel, Elakha, will cost about $500,000. Funding came from a grant to OSU researchers Jane Lubchenco, OSU Distinguished Professor of Zoology, and Bruce Menge, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology; and from the OSU Research Office and the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

Elakha is the Chinook trading language word for sea otter. The name was selected after consultation with researchers and representatives of regional Native American groups. Chinook trading language is a mixture of sounds and phrases developed to ease trade among Northwest tribes not sharing a common language.

The college has two other vessels with Native American names, the 185-foot Wecoma, which means ocean, and the 37-foot Sacajawea, said Mavis Shaw, a Warms Springs enrolled tribal member.

"We were looking to carry on the tradition and come up with an appropriate name," said Shaw, a fisheries biologist and manager at Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery.

"When Elakha was put to the board, I went to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs cultural resources board," Shaw said. The name received hearty approval.

Elakha was also chosen to bring to mind the extinction of sea otters in Oregon coastal waters, said G. Brent Dalrymple, dean of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. "It is anticipated that the Elakha will be used for research that will help to promote and maintain a healthy ecosystem along the Oregon coast," Dalrymple said.

A commissioning ceremony involving Oregon Native Americans will be scheduled next summer following construction of the Elakha.

The Elakha will have a small laboratory area, berthing for four, and a small galley, said Fred Jones, marine superintendent for the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

Scientific capabilities include a 2,000-pound capacity A-frame and winch, and a flow-through water sampling system. The Elakha, powered by a single, 600-horsepower diesel engine, will have a range of about 575 miles. Endurance will be a maximum of 72 hours, Jones said.

"We expect to use it primarily out of Newport with a range along the Oregon Coast, including the Columbia River and other Oregon estuaries, as well as offshore to about 30 nautical miles (35 statute miles)."


Brent Dalrymple, 541-737-3504

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