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Agency Brings Scientific Assets to Environmental Assessment and Search Missions

NOAA image of NOAA ship Rude.March 2, 2004 — The NOAA ship Rude today found the wreckage of Bow Mariner, a 570-foot tanker that sank 50 nautical miles east of Chincoteague, Va., on Feb. 28, 2004. The ship sank in about 250 feet of water. Rude (pronounced Rudy) is a hydrographic survey ship that supports NOAA’s nautical charting mission; it was part of a NOAA team dispatched to the scene to provide scientific and environmental support in the aftermath of the disaster at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard. Rude used side-scan sonar to locate the sunken ship. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA ship Rude. Please credit “NOAA.”)

“We began the search at daylight today and found Bow Mariner around mid-morning. Because of deteriorating weather conditions and rough seas, the quality of the side-scan imagery of the wreck is not as clear as we had hoped. However, we got one good scan that enabled us to determine which way the ship is lying and its orientation,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tod Schattgen, NOAA Corps, Rude’s commanding officer.

NOAA image of side scan sonar technology.Schattgen said mooring lines from the sunken ship that reached from the bow nearly to the sea surface inhibited further operations in the existing weather conditions. Rude broke off operations around noon because of this and heavy sea conditions. Rude is heading back toward its home port of Norfolk, Va., to refuel and to provide the U.S. Coast Guard, lead agency in the recovery effort, the sonar imagery. Rude will return to the site to do more comprehensive imagery during better sea conditions if the Coast Guard requests it. (Click NOAA image for larger view of side scan sonar technology. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Because of its expertise in surveying the ocean floor for production of the nation’s nautical charts, Rude has been called upon before by the U.S. Coast Guard to assist with disaster response. Rude found the wreckage of TWA 800 in 1996 and John F. Kennedy Jr.’s aircraft in 1999. The 90-ft. hydrographic survey ship specializes in locating on the sea floor submerged wrecks and obstructions to navigation using high resolution side-scan sonar (SSS) and shallow water multibeam technologies.

NOAA image of side scan sonar deployment from NOAA ship Whiting.Housed in a small torpedo-shaped instrument called a “fish,” the SSS provides an accurate acoustical image of the bottom extending up to 200 meters on each side of the ship. As the SSS fish is towed slowly astern, the SSS creates a map-view image of the bottom. The ship’s multibeam system is used to obtain detailed bathymetric definition of wrecks or other items detected with the side-scan sonar system. Differential global positioning system receivers use satellites to position the ship within 10-17 feet. (Click NOAA image for larger view of side scan sonar deployment from NOAA ship Whiting. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The Singapore-flagged Bow Mariner was carrying more than 3.5 million gallons of industrial ethanol and was en route from New York to Houston. NOAA is responding as part of a combined federal and state team led by the U.S. Coast Guard.

NOAA image of side scan sonar images as taken by NOAA ship Rude.The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration is providing trajectory forecasts, recommendations for response techniques and assessing injuries to marine life. If injuries to the public's resources occur, a natural resource damage assessment will be conducted in cooperation with other state and federal natural resource agencies. (Click NOAA image for larger view of side scan sonar images as taken by NOAA ship Rude. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

NOAA is providing area specific weather forecast information twice a day from its National Weather Service Ocean Prediction Center.

The NOAA fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft is operated, managed and maintained by NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. NMAO includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilians. The NOAA Corps is the nation’s seventh and smallest uniformed service, and, as part of NOAA, is under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Corps is composed of officers—all scientists or engineers—who provide NOAA with an important blend of operational, management and technical skills that support the agency’s environmental programs at sea, in the air, and ashore.

The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration works to prevent and mitigate harm to coastal resources and is the primary NOAA office to respond to oil spills and hazardous material releases. It provides scientific support and technical assistance to the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies during these incidents.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Office of Response and Restoration

NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations

NOAA Ocean Prediction Center

Media Contact:
David Miller, NOAA, (202) 482-0013, or Jeanne Kouhestani, NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations, (301) 713-3431 ext. 220