NEWS | Jan. 5, 2012

NRL-SSC Personnel Embark USNS Pathfinder

By Donna McKinney

Five Naval Research Laboratory scientists and staff members were recently afforded the unique opportunity to embark a Navy oceanographic survey ship for a cruise and return home the same day.

Accompanied by Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command employees, the NRL contingent embarked USNS Pathfinder in Gulfport, Miss., for a day cruise in the northern Gulf of Mexico on November 16. (Gulfport is approximately 35 miles from NRL Stennis Space Center.)

While aboard, they observed typical survey ship operations, including seagliders, expendable bathythermographs, geologics sampling, data processing and manning of the integrated oceanographic mapping system.

The ship tour was especially informative and reinforced my awareness of the vital work conducted by NAVOCEANO, said Dr. Herb Eppert, superintendent of the Marine Geosciences Division, who toured the ship while docked in the Port of Gulfport.

USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60) is one of six ships operated by the Military Sealift Command and under the technical control of the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), one of the primary operational users of NRL-SSC R&D and technology. NAVOCEANO is also located at Stennis Space Center.

T-AGS 60 ships are oceanographic survey vessels designed to provide multipurpose oceanographic capabilities in coastal and deep-ocean areas. They remain forward-deployed 365 days per year, meaning they do not return to a homeport.

The last visit to the U.S. Gulf Coast by a T-AGS 60 vessel was in 2003. In participating in this unique occasion, NRL staff further developed a profound awareness of the differences between marine scientific research and military survey operations.

I am confident the Naval Research Laboratory personnel disembarked with a heightened understanding of the important role NAVOCEANO plays in Naval operations and, thus, how the Naval Research Laboratory can further enhance NAVOCEANO abilities through continued advanced research and development, said Capt. Bob Kiser, military deputy for the Marine Geosciences Division.