Women of the NOAA Corps is a 31-minute historical documentary on the lives and stories of ten women in the NOAA Corps service: how they came to the NOAA Corps, their motivations and challenges, and views on their service.
The documentary serves to elevate public understanding and appreciation of the NOAA Corps, particularly women’s service in the Corps, and to inspire the next generation of women in scientific service. The NOAA Corps is one of seven federal uniformed services of the United States, and NOAA Corps officers serve on the sea, on land, and in the air to support NOAA’s environmental science and stewardship mission.
To recognize the successful history of NOAA ships Fairweatherand Rainier, as well as the professional mariners, hydrographers, and commissioned officers who have served aboard these ships for the last 50 years, NOAA hosted a ceremony and public ship tours at the Marine Operations Center – Pacific (MOC-P) in Newport, Oregon.
The ceremony opened with the national anthem sung by Ensign Airlie Picket and HAST Amanda Finn. Capt. Keith Roberts, commanding officer, Marine Operations Center – Pacific, served as master of ceremonies introducing Representative David Gomberg, District 10 – Central Coast Oregon State Legislature, Rear Adm. Shep Smith, director, Office of Coast Survey, and Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, deputy director, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and NOAA Corps, who all gave remarks during the ceremony.
“Today we are here to recognize a milestone in the career of the Rainier and Fairweather, who turn 50 this year. They are the last of a generation of truly beautiful ships,” said Rear Adm. Shep Smith. “The passion, dedication, and craftsmanship of generations of engineers and deck force have kept these ships operable for 50 years and this is no small feat.”
Rear Adm. Hann provided comments on the hydrographic fleet’s contribution to the national economy and the importance of investing in the future of NOAA’s fleet. “There is recognition in the value of the work that the crew of the Rainier, Fairweather, and the entire NOAA fleet provides to the nation.”
NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni Association presented plaques honoring the ships to their commanding officers, Cmdr. Mark Van Waes and Cmdr. Ben Evans. The ceremony closed with the commanding officers of both ships directing inspirational words to their crews.
Following the ceremony, NOAA hosted over 400 members of the public on ship tours and tours of the MOC-P museum, a collection that features several of NOAA’s heritage assets. Visitors had the opportunity to board the ships, speak with the crew, and explore one of the many launches (small boats) that the ships deploy to conduct hydrographic survey operations.
Both ships, along with their sister ship, Mt. Mitchell, were constructed at the Jacksonville Shipyards in Florida and later christened in March of 1967. Following hydrographic tradition, the ships were named for features near their working grounds—Alaska’s Mt. Fairweather, Washington’s Mt. Rainier, and North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell. The U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey commissioned the Fairweather and Rainier in October of 1968 at the Pacific Marine Center in Seattle. Mt. Mitchell was launched one year earlier and, though no longer commissioned with NOAA, is still operating as a privately-owned research vessel.
In celebration of 50 years of survey and service to the nation, NOAA ships Rainier and Fairweather—two of NOAA’s hydrographic survey vessels—will be opening their doors and hosting public ship tours. Since we understand that many of you are unable to be in Newport, Oregon, the afternoon of March 22 to take a tour in person, we are bringing the tour to you! The following 20 images offer a 360 degree view of the interior and exterior of NOAA Ship Rainier. The images were taken last field season on the survey operations mission to Channel Islands, California. From the crew mess and engine room to a view from the bow, we have captured it all.
Following the scheduled winter repair period, Fairweather is kicking off the 2017 field season in Tlevak Strait; the waterway between Dall Island and Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. This area was last surveyed between 1900 and 1939, and the lead-lines used at the time to determine depths were susceptible to omission of rocks and other features in an area. Using the latest innovations in hydrographic technology, Fairweather will be resurveying these areas with complete coverage multibeam echo sounder bathymetry. This allows Fairweather to identify any rocks or shoal features missed in prior surveys, increasing the safety for local communities, whose economies and livelihoods are dependent on maritime transportation of goods.
One of the new developments Fairweather’s survey department in particular is excited about is a new software program affectionately named “Charlene.” Charlene was developed by PS Eric Younkin at Coast Survey’s Hydrographic Systems and Technologies Branch (HSTB) to automate the night processing workflow. This simplifies hours spent each night converting and correcting raw sonar data into an automated script which takes in raw data at one end and generates products at the other. Initial results are promising, and the ship is looking forward to fully integrating Charlene into the processing workflow.
Another new development for the 2017 field season is new multibeam sonars for the ship’s survey launches, which were installed during the winter repair period. The preliminary data acquired by these sonars has shown vast improvement over their predecessors’ data, which will go a long way towards reducing data processing timelines. The new sonars do this by automating most of the acquisition parameters in real-time, far faster and more effectively than could be achieved manually. They also take advantage of a multitude of hardware and software advances that have taken place over the past several years, resulting in systems that are quieter, smaller, and easier to operate.
Fairweather is continuing to use and develop the launch-mounted lidar systems (lasers) for the acquisition of shoreline data. This was another HSTB-developed process that was validated during the 2016 field season. This year, Fairweather is using those lessons learned in order to further improve our acquisition workflow. These systems create accurate real-time point clouds of features above the waterline and have revolutionized the way hazards to navigation are documented. Before the use of lasers, shoreline verification frequently required physically touching rocks and obstructions above the water surface for accurate measurement and placement. This process involved increased risk, took more time, and produced less accurate data. The new laser workflow addresses all these limitations. By scanning the shoreline at a distance with calibrated equipment, efficiency, accuracy, and safety are all greatly improved.
Overall, Fairweather is enthusiastic about being back at work in Alaska. With her new software, sonar systems, and dedicated crew, the stage is set for and productive field season!
The crew of NOAA Ship Rainier (S-221) hosted a change of command on January 12 while moored in its homeport of Newport, Oregon.
Cmdr. John Lomnicky accepted command of Rainer, replacing Capt. Edward Van Den Ameele in a ceremony with crew and guests in attendance, including Rear Adm. Shepard Smith, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey; Capt. Todd Bridgeman, director of Marine Operations, OMAO; Mayor Sandra Roumagoux, Newport, Oregon; and Cmdr. Brian Parker, commanding officer of Pacific Marine Operations Center.
Cmdr. Lomnicky follows nearly two dozen officers commanding Rainier in her 49-year history. He started his NOAA Corps career as a junior officer onboard Rainier and served as the ship’s executive officer for the past two years.
The commanding officer of a NOAA survey ship is not only a mariner. The CO is also the ship’s chief scientist and senior program representative. This means that, in addition to being responsible for the safe management of the vessel, the ship’s CO is also solely and ultimately responsible for the completion of the science mission: delivering quality hydrographic surveys.
Capt. Van Den Ameele has been the commanding officer of Rainer since June 2014. During 2015, Van Den Ameele led the ship on a trip into the Arctic Circle, surveying over 137 square nautical miles around Kotzebue Sound, Alaska. Surveying in Alaska is no easy task, and often presents a wealth of challenges — both hydrographically and operationally — that Van Den Ameele met and overcame.
Van Den Ameele’s dedication to the mariner was demonstrated during his pursuit of dangers to navigation on his projects around Kodiak Island, Alaska. Following meetings with the fishing community, the officers and crew of Rainier identified a considerable number of dangers to navigation, submitted those for charting, and followed through to ensure these made it to the chart.
During the last three field seasons of Van Den Ameele’s command, Rainier mapped nearly 1,000 square nautical miles and surveyed over 11,700 linear nautical miles -– enough miles to have sailed halfway around the world, if the miles were put end to end!
“The efforts of Capt. Van Den Ameele and the crew of Rainier have improved the products we provide to the world’s mariners and helped increase the safety and efficiency of American maritime commerce in those areas,” said Rear Adm. Smith. “On behalf of the Office of Coast Survey, I want to congratulate you on completing a successful sea tour and job well done.”
The 231-foot Rainier is one of the most modern and productive hydrographic survey platforms of its type in the world. The ship is named for Mount Rainier in the state of Washington. Rainier’s officers, technicians, and scientists acquire and process the hydrographic data that NOAA cartographers use to create and update the nation’s nautical charts with ever-increasing data richness and precision.
The crew of the NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler (S-250) hosted a change of command on November 5, while moored at its homeport in New Castle, New Hampshire.
In front of the crew and guests – including Rear Adm. Gerd Glang, director of the Office of Coast Survey, and Capt. Anne Lynch, commanding officer of the Atlantic Marine Operations Center – Lt. Cmdr. Briana Welton accepted command of Hassler, replacing Cmdr. Marc Moser.
Welton is the new survey ship’s third commanding officer.
Glang congratulated Welton on her new responsibilities. “You have proven yourself capable and successful in your previous assignments, and we have great expectations you will continue to succeed at your new command-at-sea,” he said.
A commanding officer of a NOAA survey ship is also the ship’s hydrographer, chief scientist, and senior program representative. This means that, in addition to being responsible for the safe management of the vessel, the ship’s CO is also solely and ultimately responsible for the completion of the science mission: the hydrographic surveys that are delivered to Coast Survey.
The event marked the end of a successful tour for Moser, who served as Hassler’s second commanding officer, beginning in December 2013. Glang commended Moser for his service as “a resilient, resourceful, and extremely competent leader.”
During Moser’s tenure, Hassler achieved significant reductions in survey processing time, which cut an average of 55 days from the time it takes to get newly acquired data on to nautical charts.
Highlighting the importance of working to minimize conflicts with commercial fishing operations during survey projects, Glang thanked Moser for coordinating with the local fishing communities in the Gulf of Maine and adapting survey schedules to try to avoid impacts on fishing operations. Moser also demonstrated his “understanding and commitment to the customs and traditions of a seagoing service, when Hassler intercepted a derelict sailing vessel that had been drifting for three days in the New York Bight,” Glang pointed out. The crew facilitated the vessel’s rescue by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Moser succeeded Cmdr. Ben Evans, who brought Hassler through its delivery and initial shakedown period and into operations – including responses to hurricanes Irene and Sandy. In the Sandy response, Hassler searched for dangers to navigation and sped the resumption of shipping and naval traffic through deep draft routes to the ports of Hampton Roads and Baltimore.
Welton, who has served as Hassler‘s executive officer since May 2014, congratulated Moser for his successful command, and then went on to “thank everyone here – and those who couldn’t be here, too – who have supported this ship through all the trials and tribulations of transforming a newly constructed ship of unique design to a safe and effective operational ocean mapping vessel.”
Welton received her commission in 2003, and is one of a growing number of females in the NOAA Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. Of the total 320 officers, 91 are women. NOAA’s female percentage of 28.4 compares favorably to 14.5 percent of the active-duty military force, and 10.5 percent of the U.S. Coast Guard total force of active-duty and reserve personnel. (See CNN, By the numbers: Women in the U.S. military, January 24, 2013)
NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler is a small waterplane area twin hull (SWATH) vessel designed for improved stability. Hassler’s officers, technicians, and scientists acquire and process the hydrographic data that NOAA cartographers use to create and update the nation’s nautical charts with ever-increasing data richness and precision.
The ship was named for Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, a visionary scientist who planned the survey of the coast after President Jefferson signed enacting legislation in 1807. Hassler became the first superintendent of Coast Survey, serving until his death in 1843.
Each year, the NOAA Association of Commissioned Officers recognizes NOAA Corps officers for their extraordinary accomplishments and contributions. This year, three of the four awards went to officers supporting Coast Survey’s hydrographic program. Congratulations to the officers honored with Junior Officer of the Year, Engineering, and Science awards. Coast Survey applauds your accomplishments!
Lieutenant Megan Guberski was awarded the “Junior Officer of the Year” award for her outstanding performance as operations officer on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Lt. Guberski successfully submitted 13 hydrographic projects, ensuring mariners received critical safety of navigation data in a timely manner. Undeterred by challenges outside of her control, she developed a creative staffing and logistics plan to ensure Thomas Jefferson continued its primary data acquisition mission with survey launches even when the ship lost days at sea. This added over 390 acquisition hours, which would have otherwise gone unrealized. Lt. Guberski also made certain that data processing and survey delivery was not delayed due to server shutdown during drydock, by managing the move of the data servers, survey department, and part of the wardroom into Coast Survey’s Atlantic Hydrographic Branch to continue hydrographic data processing. Finally, Lt. Guberski seamlessly stepped into the role of acting executive officer with less than 24 hours notice, managing all aspects of the ship budget, personnel, and logistics in addition to her primary duties.
Lieutenant Commander Briana Welton was awarded the “Science Award” for her thesis work “A Field Method for Backscatter Calibration Applied to NOAA’s Reson 7125 Multibeam Echo-Sounder.” Seafloor acoustic backscatter is a valuable measurement for characterizing the marine environment and has been used in such diverse fields as geology, habitat mapping, and marine construction. Lt. Cmdr. Welton’s contribution to this field allows a more seamless integration of multi-sensor data sets and improves the utility of the environmental mapping data acquired by NOAA’s fleet.
Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Eric Younkin was awarded an “Engineering Award” for his innovative and comprehensive analysis, design, and implementation of shipboard data management infrastructure, including remote processing, data archival, and network optimization. This resulted in government cost savings of over $400K while improving performance and maintaining data integrity.