NOAA Ship Rude to Be Retired

The Smallest NOAA Ship Made Big Contributions

March 25, 2008

Decommissioning of NOAA Ship Rude.
Crew of the NOAA Ship RUDE prepare for the order to "lay ashore."

High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

A 90-ft. ship that helped bring closure to a grieving nation after two aircraft tragedies — the loss of TWA flight 800 in July 1996 and John F. Kennedy Jr.’s aircraft in July 1999 — will be decommissioned Mar. 25 after 41 years of service.

NOAA ship Rude (pronounced “Rudy”) is best known for its round-the-clock efforts to find the wreckage from these two aircraft with technology typically used to identify navigational hazards, obstructions, and water depths for nautical charts. The ship scanned hundreds of square miles of the seafloor where the aircraft went down, sending its data to an on-shore team of NOAA cartographers who made charts of the wreckage sites for Navy divers.

Able Seaman William Newton, Ensign Glen Rice and Ensign Caryn Arnold carry the colors off the NOAA Ship RUDE.
Able Seaman William Newton, Ensign Glen Rice, and Ensign Caryn Arnold carry the colors off the NOAA Ship RUDE.

High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

“It is a sad occasion to say goodbye to this very special ship after such important contributions to the nation,” said Rear Admiral Jonathan W. Bailey, director of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services, and NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which operates and manages the NOAA fleet of ships and aircraft. “However, it’s time to replace Rude with a new, technologically advanced hydrographic vessel. NOAA currently has a coastal mapping vessel under construction, which will become operational next year.”

Rude, which was commissioned in March 1967, is being decommissioned at its home port at NOAA’s Marine Operations Center-Atlantic in Norfolk, Va. The ship’s operational area has been primarily along the U.S. Atlantic coast in support of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, which is responsible for charting the nation's waterways in support of safe, efficient, and environmentally sound marine transportation.

In its four decades of service, Rude has seen tremendous changes in the technologies used to acquire hydrographic survey data. The science of hydrography deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of bodies of water, including the topography of the sea floor.

Hydrographic survey techniques.
Hydrographic survey techniques.

High Resolution (Credit: NOAA)

When first put into service, Rude used wire drag technology with a sister ship, Heck. The basic principle was to drag a wire attached to two vessels. If the wire encountered an obstruction, it would become taut and form a “V.” In the mid 80’s, Rude began using side scan sonar, which provided a wide picture of the bottom to locate submerged objects. This technology was used to find the TWA and JFK Jr. aircraft.

More recently, Rude had been equipped with some of the most technically advanced hydrographic data processing and navigation systems available. A multibeam sonar acquires a fan-shaped swath of depth data from a suite of 240 surrounding beams, while side scan sonar creates a map-view image. Differential Global Positioning System receivers use satellites to position the ship within three meters, and a conductivity, temperature, depth probe determines sound velocity through water to correct depth soundings.

Rude was named for Captain Gilbert T. Rude, an officer in the former Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1903 to 1945. Captain Rude developed the Rude Star Finder, a navigational device widely used for locating celestial bodies.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, 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 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.