Friday, January 26, 2007



Jan. 19, 2007 — NOAA is evaluating Quonset Point/Davisville, R.I., as the future homeport of the Okeanos Explorer—the nation’s first federal ship dedicated solely to ocean exploration—as part of an environmental assessment to be completed this spring.

“Okeanos Explorer will break the mold for the way the nation conducts at-sea research in the future. We have better maps of Mars and the far side of the moon than of the deep and remote regions of Earth,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Senator Reed and Governor Carcieri have been outspoken champions of the oceans. Their support combined with the wealth of academic and oceanographic institutions in New England would lead to many exciting collaborations in ocean exploration.

The Okeanos Explorer is a former Navy surveillance ship (USS Capable) that was transferred to NOAA in 2004 with the bipartisan support of Congress. The full conversion is expected to be complete in the spring of 2008. The ship will conduct research and discovery expeditions in support of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration. Using sophisticated ocean mapping, deepwater remote-operated vehicles, and real-time data transmission, the ship will unlock clues to the world’s oceans—of which 95 percent remains unexplored.

Quonset Point/Davisville is in close proximity to many labs and universities associated with the ship’s ocean exploration mission. The site was identified as best able to facilitate and enhance critical ocean research partnerships and to spur technological innovation in ocean research. Homeporting Okeanos Explorer at Quonset Point/Davisville also would support NOAA’s efforts to increase regional collaboration, leverage existing resources of NOAA and its partners, and generate an observational capacity greater than the sum of its parts.

Quonset Point/Davisville also is in close proximity to a new telecommunications center to be constructed on the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett campus. Called the Inner Space Center, it will be the ocean equivalent to NASA’s space command center in Houston, Texas. The Inner Space Center would be able to link to Okeanos Explorer via a high bandwidth satellite system and make it possible for scientists and educators to participate in ocean exploration cruises real-time without ever stepping foot on the ship.

“I am pleased NOAA has identified Quonset Point/Davisville as an ideal place to homeport Okeanos Explorer. This is an exciting announcement for Rhode Island and the field of ocean exploration,” said Senator Jack Reed. “Rhode Islanders value the ocean. It shapes our culture, economy and the health of our planet. URI and other local institutions are at the forefront of studying and exploring our oceans. Their unique academic and communications resources will significantly enhance the value of Okeanos.”

"I'm very pleased that NOAA has agreed to seriously consider basing the Okeanos Explorer in the Ocean State," Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri said. "I have long argued that Rhode Island can and should be one of America's leading centers of oceanic research. To further that goal, I worked with Senator Reed and Admiral Lautenbacher to bring the Okeanos Explorer to Rhode Island. Doing so will enable our state to build on the research capacity we've already developed at URI, while also exploiting the potential of Quonset Point/Davisville as a launching point for exploring the ocean's untapped and largely unknown resources. I especially want to thank NOAA and Admiral Lautenbacher for recognizing Rhode Island's potential."

“It would be very fitting for the Ocean State to serve as the homeport for the first NOAA ship focused exclusively on ocean exploration,” said Rear Admiral Samuel P. De Bow Jr., director of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which manages the NOAA fleet.

A team of oceanographers from across the country are already helping to plan the ship’s first voyage of exploration that will be launched from Hawaii in 2008 to explore the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest and least explored ocean.

As part of the NOAA fleet, Okeanos Explorer will be operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. Its crew will consist of technical specialists, wage mariners, scientists, and commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps—the nation’s seventh uniformed service. The Corps is composed of scientists and 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. A NOAA Corps officer will command Okeanos Explorer.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA 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 SitesOkeanos Explorer Conversion

NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

Media Contact:Jeanne Kouhestani, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, (301) 713-7693


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