Media & Current Events


From the Oceanographer of the Navy

18 March 1999




For the first time in U.S. Naval history a ship will be launched that was named — not in the time-honored, traditional Navy manner — but by a group of fifth grade students.

A christening ceremony will be held for the Navy's newest naval oceanographic survey ship, USNS BRUCE C. HEEZEN (T-AGS 64), Thursday, March 25, 1999, at Halter Marine Shipyard in Moss Point, Miss., commencing at 1 p.m. CST.

Nine fifth-graders from Oak Lawn Elementary School in Cranston, RI won an historic national Navy contest to find the name for the new ship. The contest, sponsored by the Oceanographer of the Navy and the Navy League of the United States, was tailored to encourage students to learn about the maritime sciences, naval oceanography, and also use of the Internet. The Rhode Island fifth-graders won over nearly 2,000 other entries largely due to the breadth and scope of their team project. The name was announced by the Secretary of the Navy in June 1998 at the Navy Memorial in Washington DC.

The new ship is named for oceanographer Bruce Heezen (pronounced HAY-zin), a marine scientist who did pioneering work in plate tectonics, and who produced the famous Heezen-Tharp physiographic maps of all the major oceans of the world. Heezen died of natural causes in 1977 while diving in the Navy's deep submersible submarine NR1 during an exploration to give him a first-hand look at the undersea terrain he had studied from ashore.

The ceremony's principal speaker will be the Honorable Jerry MacArthur Hultin, Under Secretary of the Navy. Mrs. Susan E. Lautenbacher, wife of Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, will be the ship’s sponsor. Mrs. Esther Dauch, Heezen's mother, will be attending the christening ceremony, as will the nine winning Rhode Island students and their teacher.

The Navy’s fleet of oceanographic survey ships criss-cross the world’s oceans conducting oceanographic surveys. In addition to mapping the ocean floor to update nautical charts, these ships typically conduct sampling of the physical properties of the water column as well as the composition of the ocean floor, launch and recover instrument packages, conduct acoustic property measurements, and possess the capability to process and analyze the data onboard with the latest computer technology.

All the Navy’s oceanographic survey ships carry the latest in over-the-side sensors and sampling equipment including bathythermographs, bottom corers, and seismic equipment. Seventy-five percent of the oceans either have never been surveyed or were surveyed many years ago using crude instruments. Since the days of Navy’s earliest oceanographers, the Oceanographer of the Navy's mission in supporting Navy Fleet operations has grown to include interpreting the entire ocean and weather, both for ensuring safety of operations and providing a tactical "edge" in utilizing that environment for our own use.

Bruce C. Heezen will be the fifth ship in the Pathfinder T-AGS 60 class. Crewed by civilian-mariners, the ship will be operated for the Oceanographer of the Navy by the Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C. The ship is 329 feet in length, with a beam of 58 feet, displaces approximately 4,762 tons when fully loaded, and can sustain speeds up to 16 knots.


Press Contacts:

Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy:

Gail S. Cleere voice mail 202-762-1045/eves & weekends 202-342-2567

or 1-800-647-6077 as of 24 March ’99

Patrick J. Dennis 202-762-0253 or 1-800-647-6077 as of 24 March ’99


Office of the Navy Chief of Information:

Lieutenant Steve Mavica 703-697-5342


Halter Marine Shipyard

Melody Kirkwood 504-248-2230 or cell phone 504-458-2356


For more information on the Ship Naming Contest, go to