NOAAS Surveyor (S 132)

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For other ships of the same name, see USC&GS Surveyor.
NOAA Ship Surveyor (1960)
Surveyor conducting helicopter operations in the Bering Sea
Career (United States Coast and Geodetic Survey) Flag of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.svg
Name: USC&GS Surveyor (OSS 32)
Namesake: A surveyor is a member of the profession of surveying, which determines positions on the earth's surface
Builder: National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, California
Launched: 25 April 1959
Sponsored by: Mrs. H. Arnold Karo
Commissioned: 30 April 1960
Homeport: Seattle, Washington
Fate: Transferred to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 3 October 1970
Career (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) NOAA Flag.svg
Name: NOAAS Surveyor (S 132)
Namesake: Previous name retained
Acquired: Transferred from U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey 3 October 1970
Decommissioned: September 29th, 1995[1]
Homeport: Seattle, Washington
Nickname: "Old Workhorse"
General characteristics
Type: Oceanographic survey ship
Tonnage: 2,653 gross tons
682 net register tons
Displacement: 3,440 tons (full load)
Length: 292 ft 2 in (89.05 m)
Beam: 46 ft (14 m)
Draft: 19 ft 5 in (5.92 m)
Installed power: 3,200 shaft horsepower (2.4 megawatts)
Propulsion: Two sets Laval geared steam turbines, two Combustion Engineering boilers, one shaft, 785 tons fuel
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) (sustained)
Range: 13,680 nautical miles (25,340 km)
Endurance: 38 days
Boats and landing
craft carried:
3 x 36-foot (11-meter) wooden survey launches
1 x ex-U.S. Navy LCVP
2 x 26-foot (7.9-meter) motor whaleboats
Complement: 92 (12 NOAA Corps officers, 6 civilian officers, 58 crew members, 16 scientists)
Aviation facilities: Helicopter pad
Notes: 800 kilowatts electrical power
Last steam-powered Coast and Geodetic Survey ship
First Coast and Geodetic Survey ship with a deep-water multi-beam echosounder

NOAA Ship Surveyor (S 132) was an oceanographic survey ship in commission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 1970 until 1995 or 1996.[1] Prior to her NOAA career, she was in commission in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1960 to 1970 as USC&GS Surveyor (OSS 32). She was the second and last Coast and Geodetic Survey ship named Surveyor and has been the only NOAA ship thus far to bear the name.

Construction and characteristics[edit]

Surveyor was built as an "ocean survey ship" (OSS) for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego, California, and launched on 25 April 1959, sponsored by Mrs. H. Arnold Karo.[2] She was the last steam-powered ship built for the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and the first to be equipped with a deep-water multi-beam echosounder. Her construction marked the beginning of a major effort to modernize the Coast and Geodetic Survey fleet and make it capable of conducting operations worldwide.

In addition to the deep-water echosounder, Surveyor had a shallow-water echosounder, a stabilized mapping sonar system, a Hydroplot data-processing system, a data-processing computer, seismic reflection profile processors, seismic reflection profile processors, and an extensive suite of navigation equipment, as well as a wet and dry oceanography laboratory, a gravimetric laboratory, and a photographic laboratory.

Operational career[edit]

NOAAS Surveyor (S 132) picks her way through ice in the Bering Sea off Alaska in May 1981.

USC&GS Surveyor (OSS 32)[3] was commissioned into service with the Coast and Geodetic Survey on April 30, 1960. When NOAA was created on 3 October 1970 and took over the Coast and Geodetic Survey‍ '​s fleet, she became a part of the NOAA fleet as NOAAS Surveyor (S 132).

Based at Seattle, Washington, and nicknamed "Old Workhouse," Surveyor spent her career in the Pacific Ocean and Arctic Ocean, operating as far north as the Beaufort Sea off Alaska and as far south as the Palmer Peninsula in Antarctica; she conducted hydrographic surveys in such widely separated areas as Norton Sound in Alaska and American Samoa. She was the primary ship for studying the Alaskan Arctic for the Outer Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment Program (OCSEAP) and for studying Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR.) She also conducted multi-beam echosounder surveys along the United States West Coast, off the southern coast of Alaska, throughout the Juan de Fuca Ridge area off the coast of Washington and British Columbia, and in Hawaiian waters. She discovered Axial Seamount on Endeavor Ridge, a seamount that apparently has been split in half by seafloor spreading.

On March 6, 1980, while Surveyor was tied to a pier in San Francisco, California, one of her crewmen fell over the side into the water between the ship and the pier. Without hesitation another crewman, Able-Bodied Seaman Wallace K. Kanahele, leaped into the water, rescued the man -- who was suffering from hypothermia -- and brought him to a small boat which had been lowered by another vessel. For saving his shipmate‍ '​s life, Kanahele received the 1980 Department of Commerce Gold Medal.

Surveyor was retired from service in a ceremony in Seattle on September 29th, 1995.[1]


Surveyor was moved to near the Ballard Locks after decommissioning where she was decontaminated by USS, Ltd of Bend, Oregon. As part of the deal, USS took possession of the Surveyor and arranged her sale to a private party.[4]

After spending several years near the Ballard Locks, she was moved to the Tyee Marina in Commencement Bay, Tacoma, Washington where she remains as of April 2015. She appears to be serving as a windbreak for the marina under the designation "OSS 2". [5]

Further information can be found in the Coast Guard registration database ( using the callsign "WTES" in the search box. She is registered with the Coast Guard up through 2016.


The Surveyor Fracture Zone, Surveyor Gap, and Surveyor Seachannel all are named for Surveyor.