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NOAA SHIP MCARTHUR TO SUPPORT FIRST DEEP-SEA EXPLORATIONS OF NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARIES

NOAA Ship McArthurApril 20, 1999 — Serving as a working platform for the sophisticated new submersible known as DeepWorker 2000, the NOAA ship McArthur will participate in the first deep-sea explorations of the nation's marine sanctuaries. Sustainable Seas Expeditions, a partnership between NOAA and the National Geographic Society, will officially kick off on Earth Day, April 22, beginning with the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of San Francisco.

This exciting project will be the first time a NOAA ship is used in this way. The manned DeepWorker will be launched from McArthur to gather information about the geologic, biologic and oceanographic environment of four marine sanctuaries off northern and southern California—the Gulf of Farallones, Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay, and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuaries. In addition to the submersible work, scientists aboard McArthur will conduct a wide range of activities, such as mapping the seafloor, collecting plankton, and deploying instruments to measure the physical properties of the surrounding ocean.

Off California CoastMcArthur is not new to special projects and partnerships that delve into education and exploration. In March 1998, McArthur provided support to the JASON Project IX, "Oceans of Earth and Beyond," at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary undersea canyon. The ship conducted oceanographic operations in the area and provided live video and audio links of these operations to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, headquarters for the West Coast operations of the project. Both live and near real-time images from the ship and dive operations were transmitted from the Aquarium during the week-long project.

Also in 1998, the ship participated in a demonstration project called Classroom@Sea, which took advantage of innovations of the World Wide Web and satellite technologies to enable students in the classroom to interact with McArthur's captain, crew, and scientists at sea through an interactive Web site. This was in addition to the ship's participation in NOAA's fleet-wide Teacher at Sea program, where teachers from kindergarten through college go aboard NOAA ships to work side-by-side with scientists and crew to get hands-on research experience. The teachers are then able to enrich their classroom curricula with what they've learned.

DeepWorker 2000Indeed, the McArthur is one of NOAA's finest research vessels, supporting a more diverse array of NOAA programs than any other ship in the fleet. This 175-foot research vessel conducts coastal oceanographic research, marine mammal population studies, and environmental assessments along the West Coast of the United States, Central and South America and through much of the eastern Pacific. The ship is named after Lieutenant William P. McArthur, a Naval officer who conducted the first hydrographic survey of the Pacific Coast of the United States in 1848 for the U.S. Coast Survey. His great-granddaughter christened the ship in November 1965.

With the ship's complement of small boats and specialized oceanographic equipment, McArthur is capable of a wide variety of marine research disciplines. Originally designed for hydrographic surveying, the ship devoted many years recording tide and current changes in waters of Alaska and the U.S. West Coast.

Since 1984, McArthur has been involved in a wide range of operations including oceanographic and water clarity observations, sound velocity profiling, weather balloon launches, acoustic surveys, scuba diving, plankton tows using several types of nets, and conducting detailed observations of marine mammal and bird activity. During Marine Mammal Assessment cruises, observers visually survey areas for population density and distribution of marine mammals. The study areas include the Eastern Pacific, from Washington State to South America and as far west as Hawaii. Basic habitat and oceanographic data are also collected.

Beginning in 1995, McArthur took on the additional task of conducting environmental assessments for National Marine Sanctuaries and Estuarine Reserves. The environmental assessment cruises have included the collection of physical and biological data in the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, multidisciplinary studies in the Gulf of the
Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries off northern California, an ecosystem-wide study in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington, and salmon studies in and around San Francisco Bay. The primary goal of these cruises is to collect data that will enhance the resource management of these pristine "set-aside" environments, insuring their health for future generations.

As part of the NOAA fleet of ships and aircraft, McArthur is operated and managed by the officers and civilians of the Office of NOAA Corps Operations. The ship has a crew of 20 and can carry a scientific party of 12 for up to 30 days. McArthur, which is home ported in Seattle, is commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Bill Sites of the NOAA Corps.