NOAAS Oceanographer (R 101)
NOAAS Oceanographer (R 101) off Seattle, Washington
Flag of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.svgUnited States
Name: USC&GS Oceanographer (OSS 01)
Namesake: Oceanographer, a scientist who studies the ocean
Builder: Aerojet General Shipyards, Jacksonville, Florida
Laid down: 22 July 1963
Launched: 18 April 1964
Completed: 20 April 1966
Commissioned: 13 July 1966
Fate: Transferred to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 3 October 1970
NOAA Flag.svgUnited States
Name: NOAAS Oceanographer (R 101)
Namesake: Previous name retained
Acquired: Transferred from U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey 3 October 1970
Decommissioned: July 1981
Recommissioned: 8 April 1986
Decommissioned: 1989
Recommissioned: ?
Decommissioned: 1996
Homeport: Seattle, Washington
  • Sold 1996;
  • Served as breakwater M/V Protector 1997-2005;
  • Sold for conversion to cruise ship Sahara 2005
General characteristics
Class and type: Oceanographer-class oceanographic research ship
Displacement: 4,033 tons (full load)
Length: 92.4 m (303 ft)
Beam: 15.8 m (52 ft)
Draft: 6.0 m (19.7 ft)
Installed power: 5,000 shaft horsepower (6.7 megawatts)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric: Two Westinghouse 1150 diesel generator sets, two Westinghouse electric motors, two screws; 400-horsepower (0.54-megawatt) bow thruster; 937 tons fuel
Speed: 15.8 knots (sustained)
Range: 12,250 nautical miles (22,690 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Endurance: 34 days (150 days provisions)
Complement: 79 (13 NOAA Corps officers, six licensed civilian officers, 60 crewmen) plus up to 24 scientists
Sensors and
processing systems:
One weather radar, two navigational radars; additional sensors installed before 1986 reactivation (see text)
Notes: 1.2 MW electrical power

NOAAS Oceanographer (R 101), originally USC&GS Oceanographer (OSS O1), was an American Oceanographer-class oceanographic research vessel in service in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1966 to 1970 and in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 1970 to 1996. She served as flagship of both the Coast and Geodetic Survey and NOAA fleets.


Designed by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), Oceanographer was laid down on 22 July 1963[1] by Gibbs Shipyards[1] at Jacksonville, Florida, under contract to Aerojet General Shipyards and launched on 18 April 1964.[2] Constructed under MARAD's supervision, she was completed on 20 April 1966,[2] at 303 feet (92 meters) in length the largest vessel constructed for research purposes to date. Her stark white paint, large radome aft of the funnels, and heavy crane on the aft deck gave her a distinctive appearance. She had chemistry, wet and dry oceanographic, meteorological, gravimetric, and photographic laboratories. She also had several precision oceanographic winches.

Operational career

USC&GS Oceanographer (OSS 01) was commissioned as an "ocean survey ship" (OSS) with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., on 13 July 1966[1] under the command of Captain Arthur L. Wardwell, USESSA.[2] With her home port at Seattle, Washington,[2] she was the second Coast and Geodetic Survey ship of the name, and served as flagship of the Survey's fleet. When the Coast and Geodetic Survey and other United States Government agencies combined to form NOAA on 3 October 1970, she became the research ship NOAAS Oceanographer (R 101), the first NOAA ship to bear the name, as well as flagship of the NOAA fleet.

NOAAS Oceanographer during her historic visit to the People's Republic of China in 1980.

During her 30 years of service, Oceanographer sailed over 2,000,000 nautical miles (3,700,000 km) in every major ocean. In 1967 she departed Jacksonville on 31 March on a "world science and ambassadorial cruise" which took her from the United States East Coast to the United States West Coast via the North Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean, making many good-will stops along the way before concluding the voyage by arriving at Seattle on 11 December.[3] In 1968, she supported Project Sea Use, a multi-party expedition to Cobb Seamount in the North Pacific Ocean which developed much of the initial scientific understanding of the seamount.[4] In 1969 she completed the circumnavigation of the globe she began in March 1967 when she returned to the U.S. East Coast.

Other highlights of Oceanographer's career included participation in the first large-scale, coordinated international sea-air interaction survey, known as the BOMEX Study, in 1969, and environmental base-line studies on deep-ocean mining (DOMES). In 1980, Oceanographer became the first U.S. Government vessel allowed into a port of the People's Republic of China.[5]

Oceanographer was placed in reserve in July 1981. She underwent a major refit in which she received an Alden weatherfax, a Sperry Mark 37 gyro, a Raytheon X-band Pathfinder radar, Inmarsat, an MX1102 Global Positioning System, a new salinometer, a Shipboard Environmental Acquisition System with expendable bathythermograph gear, a new meteorological station, and a Doppler current profiling system, and returned to service with this new equipment on 8 April 1986. Placed in reserve in 1989, she later returned to service again.

Final disposition

Oceanographer and NOAA Ships Discoverer (R 102) and Malcolm Baldridge (R 103), ex-Researcher, were replaced by NOAAS Ronald H. Brown (R 104) under the NOAA Fleet Modernization Program in the 1990s.[6][7] After being decommissioned in 1996, Oceanographer was sold to the Kirkland Yacht Club Marina of Kirkland Washington, to act as a breakwater and was renamed M/V Protector.[8] Protector was tied up at the marina from 1997 to 2005.

In August 2005, Protector was renamed M/V Sahara and towed to a Seattle, Washington, shipyard to be refitted as a luxury cruise ship.[9] In 2010, Lia Hawkins died while working on the conversion. Courts awarded $3.45 million to Hawkins′s estate. The ship’s owner, G Shipping Ltd., a Malta-based company controlled by Italian race-car driver and hotelier Emanuele Garosci appears to have had the ship claimed by the courts in lieu of payment.[10] As of 2016, the conversion project had been canceled and the ship was for sale for US$1,200,000.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Announcement of keel laying of USC&GS Ship OCEANOGRAPHER July 22, 1963. Invitation to commissioning ceremony of ESSA Ship OCEANOGRAPHER on July 13, 1966
  2. ^ a b c d Commissioning Ceremonies Program, USC&GSS Oceanographer, July 13, 1966.
  3. ^ Invitation to attend departure of USC&GS Ship OCEANOGRAPHER on its around the world science and ambassadorial cruise of 1967. Departing Jacksonville, Florida, March 31, 1967, and scheduled to arrive in Seattle, Washington, on December 11, 1967
  4. ^ Spencer, Merrill P; Campbell, Spencer D; Carl, Eurick V (May 1969). "Diving to Cobb Seamount: A Report on Diving Operations on Project Sea Use, Phase 1,1968". Journal of Occupational Medicine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 11 (5): 285–291. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  5. ^ "NOAA History - Tools of the Trade/Ships/C&GS Ships/OCEANOGRAPHER". NOAA History. June 8, 2006. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  6. ^ "Brief History of NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown". NOAA Marine Operations. October 10, 2001. Archived from the original on February 8, 2006. Retrieved May 10, 2006.
  7. ^ Norman Polmar (2005), The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, Naval Institute Press, p. 614, ISBN 9781591146858
  8. ^ "Local News- Catching up with newsmakers". Seattle Times Newspaper. December 31, 2005. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  9. ^ Rachel Tuinstra (December 31, 2005). "Kirkland's "white elephant" destined for new adventures". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
  10. ^ "Jury awards $3.45M for family of ship worker who drowned on job". The Seattle Times. 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  11. ^ "303' NOAA Flagship for sale in Seattle. Diesel-electric, ice-class". July 30, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  • Prézelin, Bernard, and A. D. Baker III, eds. The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World 1990/1991: Their Ships, Aircraft, and Armament. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute, 1990. ISBN 0-87021-250-8.