NOAA 2007-R806
Contact: Jeanne G. Kouhestani
NOAA News Releases 2007
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Team to Be Invited to Keel Laying Ceremony

A team of four students and their biology teacher from Naugatuck High School in Naugatuck, Conn., has won the “Name NOAA’s New Ship” contest. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration selected the entry “Ferdinand R. Hassler” for a 124-foot Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) coastal mapping vessel that is currently under construction in Mississippi. Hassler was a key player in NOAA’s earliest history.

“We are extremely pleased with the student team’s choice of name. It is a particularly appropriate selection during NOAA’s 200th celebration of science and service to the nation, as Ferdinand Hassler was appointed in 1807 as the first superintendent of the Coast Survey. The Survey was the nation’s first federal science agency and NOAA traces its earliest roots back to it,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The contest was designed to encourage students to learn more about their oceans, coasts, and maritime history, and the Naugatuck High School team presented an outstanding recommendation.”

The team of four 10th-grade students, led by biology teacher Beth A. Lancaster, includes Michelina Cioffi, Scott Dyer, Mark Lee, and Steven Plante. They will be invited to attend the ship’s keel laying ceremony at the VT Halter Marine shipyard in Moss Point, Miss.—where the ship is currently under construction—on June 15. Mrs. Catherine Sununu, wife of Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire, is sponsor of the ship and will participate in the ceremony. Additionally, a senior NOAA official will visit the school in the fall and present it with a duplicate keel plate from the ship.

Since September 2003, NOAA has been using its fleet modernization program to promote science education and ocean literacy by including students and teachers in the ship naming process. Thousands of students have participated in the contests sponsored by the NOAA Office of Education and learned more about NOAA’s important scientific research. Ferdinand R. Hassler is the fourth NOAA vessel named through a contest.

Working in teams of four to eight students, contest participants research one name of their choosing for the ship, and write an essay to support their selection. Essays are judged on imagination and creativity, evidence of educational value, and ocean literacy.

This latest contest was open to students in middle and high schools throughout New England. Ferdinand R. Hassler will be homeported in New Castle, N.H., once it becomes operational in 2008. NOAA is a partner of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping and the Joint Hydrographic Center, a University of New Hampshire/NOAA Cooperative Institute, based at the university.

Ferdinand R. Hassler is the first coastal mapping vessel of its design built for NOAA in support of the agency’s National Ocean Service. The ship will continue in the tradition of the earliest surveys of the nation’s waterways spearheaded by its namesake. Its primary mission will be to map the full seafloor in coastal areas for the nation’s nautical charts. The vessel’s ability to monitor and detect changes to the seafloor—including obstructions, shoaling, and other dangers to navigation—will enhance the nation’s commerce and security and improve NOAA’s ability to characterize marine ecosystems.

Ferdinand Hassler was a Swiss immigrant whose scientific skill, strength of character, and indomitable nature guided the Coast Survey through many difficult times until his death in 1843. Hassler left a thriving organization imbued with principles of scientific accuracy, standards, and integrity as his gift to the American people. His legacy directly influenced 200 years of hydrographic surveys and the creation of NOAA.

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations operates, manages and maintains the NOAA fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft. OMAO is composed of civilians and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers–all scientists or engineers– provide NOAA with an important blend of operational, management and technical skills that support NOAA’s mission at sea, in the air and ashore. To learn more about OMAO and the NOAA Corps, please visit

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 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.