The research vessel SONNE was built in 1969 as an industrial stern trawler. When marine resources became a topic on the 70s’ political agenda, the German government decided to buy the fishing vessel.

In 1977 and 1978, the ship was converted into a research vessel for marine resources. It was equipped for seismic measurements, and the spacious working deck was adapted to the deployment of marine geology equipment.  In 1991, the ship was modernized and made longer. Today, it is used for all fields of marine research.  

Research activities on the SONNE focus on deep-sea ores and gas hydrates. Furthermore, the SONNE provides crucial data for the optimal positioning of seafloor seismometers, which are to be part of the GITEWS tsunami early warning system off Indonesia. A broad range of measuring equipment is available on board: a multibeam echosounder maps the sea floor, multi-channel seismics provide data on the structure of the earth’s crust, a camera sledge sends real-time footage of the sea floor.

The vessel usually cruises the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. During expeditions, 25 scientists can live and work on board. The SONNE has been serving science since 1977, and that comes at a price: At an age of 38, the vessel is getting too old to meet the demands of modern science on the high seas. Arrangements for the construction of a successor vessel are already being made.


The new RV Sonne

With the first steel-cutting of the first steel plate in MEYER WERFT’s laser center, the construction of the research vessel SONNE began in December 2012. When completed in 2015, it shall replace the 36 years old research vessel SONNE.

The ship is 116 meters long, 20.6 wide and can accommodate up to 40 scientists in addition to the 35-member strong crew. Furthermore, the ship provides space for up to 25 twenty-foot containers with material.

The Indian Ocean and the Pacific will be the research vessel’s main areas of application. Both oceans have a big influence one the world climate, which is why their exploration becomes more and more important. The SONNE will also contribute to answer other scientifically and socially relevant questions, especially in respect to the supply with marine raw materials and the human impact on earth’s ecosystems.

The Sonne at a glance

Year of Construction: 1969
Owner: Partenreederei MS SONNE
Operator: RF Reedereigemeinschaft
Forschungsschifffahrt GmbH Bremen
Port of Registry: Bremen
Length: 97,6 m
Beam: 14,2 m
Draught: max. 6,8 m
Speed: max. 12,5 knots
Nautical Crew: 26 Persons
Scientists: 25 Persons

The new Sonne at a glance

Year of Construction: 2014
Owner: Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Port of Registry: Wilhelmshaven
Length: 115 m
Beam: 20,6 m
Draught: max. 6,4 m
Speed: max. 12 knots
Nautical Crew: 35 Persons
Scientists: 40 Persons