Modernized Ship to Survey Alaskan Waters for Update of Nautical Charts
August 18, 2004
Photo courtesy NOAA
Lautenbacher said that this $18.3 million ship investment demonstrates NOAA's commitment to reducing the backlog of outdated surveys in the vast expanse of Alaskan waters as part of its mission to ensure safe navigation and commerce.
Fairweather has been equipped with the latest multibeam echo sounder technology, and state-of-the-art side scan sonar will be added next year. The ship will be able to map 100 percent of the ocean bottom, determine bottom characteristics and identify areas of interest to navigators, biologists and geologists.
The vessel can carry four survey launches, greatly increasing its efficiency in survey area coverage. Pairing Fairweather with its sister ship, Rainier, will enable NOAA to cover a far greater area quickly and efficiently, providing data for the update of nautical charts, making Alaska's waters safer for expanding commerce and navigation.
Fairweather will have other missions in addition to the work to reduce Alaska's 9,700 square nautical miles of critical survey area backlog. It is capable of conducting essential fish habitat surveys that are required to make science-based decisions about uses of fisheries resources
The ship will be home ported at the Old Tesoro fuel pier south of downtown Ketchikan. Its crew includes one Ketchikan resident and three other Alaska residents. Recruitment is continuing in Ketchikan and throughout Alaska.
Alaska's coastal waters are increasingly transited by large cruise liners, cargo ships and oil tankers, yet many of the seafloor surveys of areas outside primary shipping lanes were done decades ago using technology that did not provide full bottom coverage. Changes due to receding glaciers, storms, shipwrecks and other hazards also can make more recent surveys obsolete.
According to a NOAA news release, Fairweather begins operations on Aug. 23rd with a hydrographic survey of Decision Passage in southeast Alaska at the request of the southeast marine pilots. This area is a meeting point on a blind 90 degree turn and open to the Pacific Ocean. The survey is intended to give the pilots a better idea of how much maneuvering room they have while avoiding other large vessels, such as 2,000-passenger cruise ships, and the rocks.
Fairweather, named after Mt. Fairweather in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park, was launched in 1967. The ship spent every almost summer surveying in Alaska waters from Ketchikan in southeast Alaska to Shelikof Strait along the southern Alaska peninsula. Because of budget cutbacks, Fairweather was deactivated in 1988. It was briefly reactivated in 1989 to conduct damage assessments in Prince William Sound after the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill. For 15 years the ship was docked at the NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific in Seattle, Wash.
The NOAA fleet of research
and survey ships and aircraft is operated, managed and maintained
by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. NMAO includes commissioned
officers of the NOAA Corps and civilians. The NOAA Corps is the
nation's seventh uniformed service, and, as part of NOAA, is
under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Corps is composed
of officers - all scientists or engineers - who provide NOAA
with an important blend of operational, management and technical
skills that support the agency's environmental programs at sea,
in the air and ashore.
Source of News Release & Photograph: