News Release

No. 119-99
IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 23, 1999 (703)697-5737(public/industry)



The U.S. Navy's newest oceanographic survey ship, USNS Bruce C. Heezen (T-AGS 64), will be christened March 25 during a 1 p.m. (CST) ceremony at Halter Marine Shipyard, Moss Point, Miss.

The ceremony's principal speaker will be Under Secretary of the Navy Jerry M. Hultin. Susan E. Lautenbacher, wife of Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, will be the ship's sponsor, and Esther Dauch, Heezen's mother, will be the matron of honor.

Unique in naval history, the ship was not named in the time-honored, traditional Navy manner, but by a group of nine fifth-grade students from Oak Lawn Elementary School in Cranston, R.I. Responding to a call from the Navy for suggestions for the new oceanographic survey ship's name, students nationwide competed in a contest that began at the start of the September 1998 school year. The contest was tailored to encourage students to learn about the maritime sciences, naval oceanography, and use of the Internet.

In June 1998, then Secretary of the Navy John Dalton, announced that the name Bruce C. Heezen, submitted by the Oak Lawn Elementary School fifth-graders, had been selected from nearly 2,000 suggestions across the country, largely due to the breadth and scope of their project. These nine students will attend the christening.

The new ship is named for oceanographer Bruce C. Heezen (1924-1977), a marine scientist who did pioneering work in plate tectonics, and ocean floor exploration. Through grants supported by the U.S. Navy and the Office of Naval Research, he helped compile extensive oceanographic depth soundings which identified the mid-ocean rift valleys, providing a visual interpretation of the extensive fracture zones that mark the oceanic crust movements. He also contributed to the design and construction of instruments capable of determining ocean floor depths and observing their topography, and produced the famous Tharp physiographic maps of all the major oceans of the world.

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 is the last of five ships in the Pathfinder 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.