NOAA 2007-R808
Contact: Jeanne G. Kouhestani
NOAA News Releases 2007
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Office of Communications


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned its new fisheries survey vessel Henry B. Bigelow today at NOAA’s Marine Operations Center-Atlantic in Norfolk, Va. It is the second of four ships in its class designed and built by VT Halter Marine Inc. in Moss Point, Miss. The ship was named in honor of the founding director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a pioneering ocean researcher whose extensive investigations are recognized as the foundation of modern oceanography.

“With her state-of-the-art technology and unique research attributes, Henry B. Bigelow will help manage living marine resources in more than 100,000 square miles of ocean including Georges Bank, one of the world’s most productive fishing grounds,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

The ship’s sponsor is Kathleen Gregg, wife of Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. Mrs. Gregg’s signature is inscribed on a metal keel plate affixed to the ship and, according to maritime tradition, Henry B. Bigelow will carry her spirit throughout the ship’s service life.

Henry B. Bigelow was the first NOAA ship to be named through a ship-naming contest—a regional educational initiative designed to encourage interest in scientific studies. A team from Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, N.H., won the contest and attended the ship’s keel laying ceremony in 2004.

NOAA is evaluating potential home ports for the Henry B. Bigelow, from which she will support the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass. Henry B. Bigelow will replace NOAA ship Albatross IV once calibration studies between the two vessels are complete. One of her primary missions will be to conduct the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Multispecies Bottom Trawl Survey Program. This program is recognized by the fisheries scientific community as one of the most valuable time series of fisheries data in the United States and among the most valuable in the world. Data produced by this program are used to provide management advice covering marine finfish and invertebrate stocks in the Northeast United States.

“This class of fisheries survey vessel has cutting edge technology that makes the ships among the most advanced of their kind in the world,” said Rear Admiral Samuel P. De Bow Jr., director of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and NOAA Commissioned Corps. “This is a great day for NOAA’s fleet modernization program.”

The 208-foot ship was built to meet the requirements of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Recent acoustic tests run by the U.S. Navy show Henry B. Bigelow exceeds standards for a low noise signature set by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas to optimize the effectiveness of fisheries research across the globe.

Henry B. Bigelow and her sister ships are so quiet that they can study fish without significantly altering their behavior. Their hydroacoustic technology uses sound waves to “see” fish on a computer screen, which makes fisheries assessments more efficient and accurate. Also, the ships can conduct bottom and mid-water trawls while running physical and biological-oceanographic sampling during a single deployment—a combined capability unavailable in the private sector.

Henry B. Bigelow’s commanding officer is Commander Stephen Beckwith, a NOAA Corps officer. The NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. Officers, who are scientists or engineers, command the agency’s research and survey ships and aircraft, and serve in billets on shore, bringing their operational expertise to NOAA programs. The ship’s civilian crew includes highly skilled wage mariners.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

On the Web: