August 24th, 2006 02:59 EST
NOAA Dedicates New Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Research Vessel
NOAA dedicated a new high-speed research vessel that will ply the waters of the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The vessel will be used primarily for research missions but will also support education, monitoring and emergency response patrols. The vessel has been named the Auk in honor of an extinct seabird that once wintered in these waters.
"The dedication of the research vessel Auk fulfills our commitment to support research that will lead to better ecosystem-based management of the marine resources of the sanctuary," said Timothy Keeney, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. "The Auk is uniquely suited for its mission."
Built by All American Marine of Bellingham, Wash., the 50-foot Auk is a Teknicraft hydrofoil-assisted, aluminum-hulled catamaran powered by Cummins 484 horsepower engines. The vessel operates with a top speed of 28 knots, a cruising speed of 20 knots and has a fuel capacity of 600 gallons. The vessel holds both wet and dry labs, a dive ladder, A-frame and winch.
Assisting scientists in their understanding of the ecosystem of the Stellwagen Bank region and key species located within the sanctuary will be a major role for the sanctuary's new vessel. The Auk's shallow draft and stability make it ideal for research cruises in areas with feeding whales, including endangered humpbacks, finbacks and northern right whales. The vessel has the ability to deploy and tow scientific equipment through its 2,000-pound A-frame and knuckle crane. In addition, a state-of-the-art dive air system will allow NOAA scientists better access to the underwater environment. For the first time in the sanctuary's history, scientists will have year-round access to the entire site, enabling researchers to better understand seasonal ecosystem dynamics. The vessel operates with a crew of two, and can accommodate a research group of 12 for day trips or four scientists for extended overnight missions. "The versatility of this vessel will allow us to easily switch between research missions that range from scuba diving operations on shallow wrecks to deployment of monitoring gear, such as remotely operated vehicles, in deeper waters," said Craig MacDonald, Stellwagen Bank sanctuary superintendent. "We are honored to name this vessel after a fascinating bird that visited these waters for eons, before its extinction at man's hands in the mid-19th century. In recognizing the Auk, we are reminding ourselves of the impact humans can have in our marine ecosystems, and that our work today may help prevent some of the types of tragedies that have happened in the past."
The Great Auk was a flightless seabird that, like a penguin, used its short wings as flippers to swim. Its migration took it from summer breeding grounds on or near Labrador, Newfoundland, and points north and east, to winter feeding grounds on Stellwagen Bank, Georges Bank, and along the New England and mid-Atlantic states.
"The research vessel Auk, along with the recent renovation of the NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary's headquarters facilities, builds capacity at the site to further the mission of resource protection," said Daniel J. Basta, director of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program. "The Auk expands our capabilities for day-long and multi-day trips to all parts of the sanctuary, and provides a safe, stable platform for maritime operations that will increase our effectiveness in the region."
The Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary protects 648 square nautical miles (842 square miles) of critical marine habitats, including open ocean areas that serve as feeding grounds for endangered whales, deep boulder ridges, sand banks and gravel fields. Historically important for more than 400 years as a fishing ground, the area has gained popularity over the past four decades as a premier whale watching destination. Designated in 1992, the sanctuary is managed by NOAA.
The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America's marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.
In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency 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 the 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 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.
Relevant Web Sites
NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program
NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Anne Smrcina, NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, (781) 545-8026 ext. 204
(Photos courtesy of David Hall, NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program.)