The scene was celebratory in Woods Hole Wednesday as the oceanographic research vessel Neil Armstrong was welcomed for the first time at her home port at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The 238-foot research vessel arrived with Coast Guard escort, and members of the Oak Bluffs police and fire department joined in the flotilla from aboard the Oak Bluffs Police-Fire boat. She was greeted in Woods Hole by a large crowd from WHOI and a chorus of fireworks, cannon fire, and Steamship Authority whistles. Neil Armstrong’s widow, Carol, was among those who spoke to the crowd.

Oak Bluffs police and fire joined Coast Guard to escort the Neil Armstrong as she arrived Wednesday. — Jeffrey LaBell

Oak Bluffs native Derek Bergeron is the first mate on the Neil Armstrong, which made the event more meaningful for Oak Bluffs first responders, Oak Bluffs Det. Jeffrey LaBell said.

The Neil Armstrong is the country’s newest addition to the academic research fleet, commissioned and owned by the U.S. Navy.

In 2010 the Office of Naval Research selected WHOI to operate the Neil Armstrong, which will serve as a general purpose research vessel based on the East Coast. WHOI will operate the vessel for the ocean science community and coordinate its schedule.

The ship was built at the Dakota Creek Shipyard in Anacortes, Wash. She traveled to Woods Hole via the Panama Canal after departing Anacortes in October.

The Neil Armstrong is one of seven large research vessels in the U.S. fleet and can undertake missions of up to 40 days. It is the first in a new class of research vessels, and named after the first man to walk on the moon. Her sister vessel, the Sally Ride, will be based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

According to WHOI, the ship is equipped for advanced mapping, sampling, and global ocean exploration, and can operate in any ocean except ice-covered seas. She accommodates 24 scientists and 20 crew on missions of up to 40 days.

The ship’s first science mission is planned for May in the North Atlantic, according to WHOI, to assist with retrieving and deploying scientific instruments that monitor ocean and atmosphere conditions.

The Neil Armstrong replaces the retired research vessel Knorr, long a familiar sight at her berth near the Steamship Authority terminal in Woods Hole. The Knorr was in operation since 1970 and is often known as the ship that assisted researchers in discovering the wreck of the Titanic in 1985. The vessel traveled more than a million miles, the equivalent of two round trips to the moon.

The Knorr departed from Woods Hole in mid-March, bound for a new life as a survey vessel under ownership of the Mexican navy (and a new name, Rio Tecolutia). The Armstrong and the Knorr crossed paths briefly off Cape Hatteras as the Neil Armstrong headed north and the Rio Tecolutia headed south.

Most of the crew from the Knorr, including Captain Kent Sheasley, will also serve on the Armstrong, according to WHOI.

For more information, and to see a video of the Neil Armstrong's arrival, visit