Released August 13, 1997

U.S. Navy to Lay Keel on Unnamed Ship

    When it comes to new ship construction, the Navy rarely lays a ship's keel without already having a name for the new ship. But, at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, August 19th, at the Halter Marine Shipyard in Moss Point, Mississippi, the Navy will do just that. Four men will weld their names into the keel of an oceanographic survey ship that awaits America's school children to decide on its name.

    Earlier this year, the Honorable John Dalton, Secretary of the Navy, agreed to hold a nationwide contest among students in grades K_12 to propose a name for the Navy's newest oceanographic ship and build a convincing case for its adoption. Students across the country are now beginning to form their teams to do exactly that. Normal procedure for naming new Navy ships has professional Navy historians sending recommendations to the Secretary of the Navy, who chooses a name among these.

    "Normally, we'd know the ship's name by now," says Rear Admiral Paul Tobin, Oceanographer of the Navy, and owner of the new ship, "but we wanted to use the upcoming school year to get students involved in the process, and benefit from the renewed interest in oceanography in time for the 1998 International Year of the Oceans. In researching a name for this new ship, students will naturally be led to a variety of maritime and oceanographic subjects of interest."

    Contest entry guidelines and procedures are found on the Oceanographer of the Navy's Web site:

    The Navy will announce the final winning name in May 1998, just prior to the ship's launching. Representatives from the winning teams will receive an expense-paid trip to Washington, and the grand winner a trip to the new ship's christening and launch.

    Meanwhile, on Tuesday the 19th, those helping to sponsor the student contest will weld their names into the ship's keel: Rear Admiral Paul Tobin, Oceanographer of the Navy; Captain (ret) Jack Kennedy, National President of the Navy League of the United States; Rear Admiral (ret) Henry McKinney, President, Navy Memorial Foundation; and Vice Admiral Jim Perkins, Commanding Officer, Military Sealift Command (operator of the Oceanographer's survey ships).

    Also attending the keel laying will be at least one team of elementary school students from the Diamond Head Academy in Diamond Head, MS, already geared up and ready to get to work on their project.