NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson celebrates survey success with maritime community

by Ensign Diane Perry, onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

From 2005 through today, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has been surveying Long Island Sound, one project area at a time. Some of the area was last surveyed between the late 1800s and 1939. For the 2014 field season, Thomas Jefferson was assigned her final Long Island Sound project, 89 square nautical miles of Eastern Long Island Sound, Fisher Island Sound, and Western Block Island Sound. When this project is complete, we will have resurveyed over 95% of Long Island Sound and all of Block Island Sound with modern survey technology that allows for a complete picture of the seafloor and highly accurate soundings.

This image depicts Thomas Jefferson's bathymetry from eastern Long Island Sound to Gardiner's Bay.
This image depicts Thomas Jefferson‘s bathymetry from eastern Long Island Sound to Gardiner’s Bay.

Data acquired by the Thomas Jefferson will update the region’s nautical charts and will serve other users within NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a New York and Connecticut Long Island Sound Seafloor mapping initiative. The mapping initiative creates products for habitat mapping and geological interpretation, and supports state planning and management of this vital resource.

Bringing the hydrography of this area into modern times has been a huge task, and we appreciate being welcomed as a part of the area’s maritime community! When Thomas Jefferson was asked to participate in the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London this summer, the crew was excited for the opportunity to showcase the results of nearly a decade of surveying effort.

On September 12, Thomas Jefferson docked at City Pier, dressed in semaphore flags to welcome crowds lining the pier eager for guided tours. As the sun set, Thomas Jefferson hosted judges and the announcer during the festival’s lighted boat parade. The ship continued to provide tours the next day, and was the highlight of the event for many visitors. More than 500 visitors toured from fantail to bridge, learning about the ship’s mission and hydrographic survey operations, life at sea, and maritime heritage of NOAA and the Office of Coast Survey.

As the festival ended, Thomas Jefferson’s crew cast off from City Pier to return to their Long Island Sound working grounds and continue survey operations. We are excited to return to the survey area and complete the 2014 Long Island Sound mapping project.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson dressed in semaphore flags for Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.
LCDR Jim Crocker and Alex Ligon wrestle with wayward semaphore flags
Cmdr. James Crocker and hydrographic assistant survey technician Alex Ligon wrestle with wayward semaphore flags to keep NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson looking her best for Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.
Lt. Guberski talks to tour group
Lt. Megan Guberski greets a tour group about to board NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson during Connecticut’s 2014 Maritime Heritage Festival. American flags patriotically line New London train station in the background for the special event. Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Abigail Winz.
Photo of Guertin, Stone, Moulton, and Johnson
From left to right, “Teacher at Sea” Dr. Laura Guertin, hydrographic survey technician Allison Stone, Ensign Stephen Moulton, and general vessel assistant James Johnson dedicated their time to spreading the word about NOAA’s hydrographic mission.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson finds two divers in Block Island Sound

NOAA hydrographic survey vessels are valuable assets for search and rescue operations, as experienced crews use their knowledge of tides and ocean currents to develop science-based search patterns. Last month, two divers found out just how valuable NOAA’s expertise can be. — DF

Report submitted by Ensign Brittany Anderson, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

On the morning of August 26, 2012, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson was conducting routine hydrographic survey operations south of Block Island. At 0904 hours, a distress call was made on the very high frequency (VHF) radio to the Coast Guard Station. The caller reported two divers lost in the water at Southwest Ledge, a popular recreational point off Block Island. The coordinates were a mere seconds north of the Thomas Jefferson.

A third diver was on a private boat with no VHF radio. He hailed the fishing boat Captain Ron, and that boat called the U.S. Coast Guard, Sector Long Island Sound. The third diver continually returned to the water to search for the two missing divers.

At 0907, the Coast Guard reported via VHF that one of their vessels was on its way, but was 25 minutes out. Cmdr. Larry Krepp, commanding officer of the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, contacted the Coast Guard and informed them of our location and ability to assist in the search for the missing divers. Numerous additional lookouts were called to the bridge to search all points off the ship. At 0908 our ship stopped logging hydrographic survey data, and we retrieved our moving vessel profiler from the water. We calculated the current set and drift from Southwest Ledge and began search lines in the vicinity of the divers’ expected location.

Thomas Jefferson conducts search and rescue for two divers in Block Island Sound
The divers’ initial location is indicated at Southwest Ledge. The red arrows indicate Thomas Jefferson’s search lines, and the red circle shows where the divers were retrieved.

Ensign Brittany Anderson, Ensign Anthony Klemm, Ensign Andrew Clos, Lt. Cmdr. Denise Gruccio, and Cmdr. Lawrence Krepp kept a heavy lookout on all sides. Chief hydrographic survey technician Peter Lewit and physical scientist James Miller updated the expected location of the divers based on current set and drift calculations. Able seaman Tom Bascom was at the helm, steering the course to search for the individuals. At approximately 0930, the Coast Guard rescue vessel arrived on scene and made contact with the third diver. At 0952, Lt. Cmdr. Gruccio spotted the two divers broad off the port beam at a bearing of 282° PGC (per gyrocompass.) We reported the position and distance to the Coast Guard rescue boat on scene; they promptly followed our pointing and bearing to the divers. They safely retrieved the two divers at 0955.

After receiving word from the Coast Guard that the divers were safe and our services were no longer needed, we came about to our survey course. We continued our hydrographic survey operations, relieved and pleased that our training and hydrographic knowledge gave us the ability to find the divers quickly and safely.

USCG picks up the two divers
The U.S. Coast Guard picked up the two divers, after they were found by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. (Photo by ENS Brittany Anderson.)

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NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is one of the most technologically advanced hydrographic survey vessels in the world. Equipped with high-resolution seafloor echo sounders, the 208-ft. Thomas Jefferson and its 36-person crew maps the seafloor in support of Coast Survey’s nautical charting mission.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson