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NOAA image of NOAA's newest acoustically quiet fishery research vessel, Henry B. Bigelow. Please credit NOAA.June 28, 2007 — The newly constructed NOAA fishery survey vessel Henry B. Bigelow has exceeded international standards as an acoustically quiet vessel, according to a report released by the U.S. Navy.

NOAA received the results from a battery of underwater acoustic tests done by the Navy on the ship at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center on Andros Island in the Bahamas.(Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA's newest acoustically quiet fishery research vessel, Henry B. Bigelow. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Henry B. Bigelow is one of only a handful of research ships in the world that have met this high standard as a quiet research vessel,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “With its dramatically lower background noise levels, this ship will greatly enhance our ability to use the most sophisticated acoustic devices to assess fish stocks.”

To hear the difference between the Henry B. Bigelow and an older research vessel, click these underwater recordings of the ships' sounds and compare:
Underwater recording of the newly constructed NOAA Research Vessel Henry B. Bigelow.
Underwater Recording of the Delaware II, an older NOAA Research Vessel.

The noise radiated by the 208-foot vessel was carefully compared by the Navy to noise recommendations established by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, a respected international organization that includes more than 1,600 marine scientists from 20 countries that surround the North Atlantic.

“Because Henry B. Bigelow does not produce disruptive background noise, we can count fish and assess the size, health and behavior of stocks with highly sensitive acoustic devices,” said William T. Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries Service. “Trawl surveys also conducted by Henry B. Bigelow will be greatly enhanced by the new acoustic quieting on the vessel because fish and marine mammals will be less likely to react to ship noise. This is an important new tool to support ecosystem research.”

NOAA image of NOAA's newest fishery research vessel, Henry B. Bigelow unerway during sea trials. Please credit “NOAA.”Henry B. Bigelow is the second in a fleet of four new fisheries survey vessels that will replace older ships. The first quiet vessel to be launched was Oscar Dyson, which also met or exceeded ICES standards. Oscar Dyson is home ported in Kodiak, Alaska, and conducts research on fisheries in the North Pacific, Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Two more ships of the same class are under construction. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA's newest fishery research vessel, Henry B. Bigelow unerway during sea trials. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Henry B. Bigelow also represents a major accomplishment for the U.S. shipbuilding industry, which has shown it can construct dramatically quieter vessels using new hull designs and mounting devices for generators, engines and machines aboard the ship.

Henry B. Bigelow was designed in a unique partnership between NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in Bethesda, Md. The ship was built at VT Halter Marine Inc., in Moss Point, Miss.

With the U.S. military and NOAA leading the world in operating quieter ships, they provide a model for other marine-related industries. There is scientific consensus that underwater sound affects the behavior of marine species that depend on sound as a primary sense for navigation, feeding and other essential activities. Underwater sound has been increasing dramatically as worldwide shipping has grown.

Henry B. Bigelow is to be commissioned on July 16, 2007 in Norfolk, Va. She will support research conducted by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass. and be homeported in New England. The New England base of operations is appropriate for a ship named in honor of one of the giants in oceanography and fisheries research.

Henry B. Bigelow worked as a researcher, instructor and professor of zoology at Harvard from 1906 to 1962. He founded Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1931. He is known for transforming the Gulf of Maine from a scientific unknown to one of the most thoroughly studied bodies of water in the world. He was a pioneer in developing the interdisciplinary, ecosystem approach that characterizes modern oceanography.

The NOAA fleet of research and survey ships and aircraft is operated, managed, and maintained by NOAA’s Office Marine and Aviation Operations. OMAO includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilians. The NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services, 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.

Relevant Web Sites

NOAA Fisheries

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

Final Acoustic Trial Results for the HENRY B. BIGELOW

Media Contact:
Monica Allen, NOAA Fisheries, 301-713-2370 or 202-379-6693, cellular