NOAA 2000-R814
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani


A little piece of Maine's history that is tied to today's federal fisheries research in New England can be found on the wall of the city of South Portland's Key Bank.

More than 30 years ago, a half-hull model of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel Delaware II, a 155-ft. stern trawler, was built by South Portland resident and master model maker Roger Belanger. Belanger was then employed by the ship's builder, South Portland Engineering Company, and was involved with all aspects of the ship's construction.

Commissioned in 1968, Delaware II had a shaky beginning. The ship was partially constructed when a spectacular fire destroyed it to the point it had to be rebuilt. Most of the plans were lost in the fire, so Portland Engineering had to use elevation and half breadth plans to get started with reconstruction. In the meantime, General Electric bought Portland Engineering except for the shipbuilding division, which made the situation even worse. Experienced workers left for more stable jobs, and inexperienced workers took their places. Construction was further slowed because the workers knew they would be laid off after Delaware II was completed and the division closed down.

When a Scotsman hired to design the shell plate of the ship disappeared before his work was done, ship model maker Roger Belanger stepped in to help. He constructed a 1/2 inch to the foot half-hull model that was used for the shell plan, and he additionally created all the patterns for the shell plating. Bath Iron Works did the actual bending of the steel. Trouble again struck when the shipfitters reversed the starboard and port plates, which then had to be remade.

Despite these setbacks, Delaware II was launched in 1967. The ship, now home ported in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, is commanded by Master Jack McAdam, a Springvale, Maine, resident. She plies the waters of New England and the mid-Atlantic to gauge the health and abundance of fish stocks. The surveys and research performed from her decks provide an understanding of the physical and biological processes of key commercial fish species.

Delaware II's half-hull model was privately owned for many years, and recently resurfaced in the same city in which the ship was built. Roger Belanger still builds museum-quality models, and resides in South Portland.