Perhaps it's a good sign when a ship from the agency behind the National Weather Service chooses your port in a storm.
Visitors to the New London waterfront before and during Hurricane Irene’s track through Connecticut may have seen the Thomas Jefferson, a vessel belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The ship, one of three large survey vessels owned by NOAA, is named after the president in office in 1807 when Congress authorized a survey of the American coast.
“Basically it was in there seeking safe haven from the storm, that’s all. They were actually operating in the area, around Block Island, conducting hydrographic surveys,” said Keith Roberts, executive officer at the NOAA Marine Operations Center Atlantic.
The 208-foot ship’s primary mission is to conduct such surveys to update NOAA’s nautical charts for the Atlantic, Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands regions. It is equipped with side-scan and multibeam radar to measure depths and identify obstructions such as shipwrecks.
The Thomas Jefferson was launched in 1991 as the Navy ship Littlehales. The function of the ship for the Navy was similar to its current role: conducting hydrographic surveys in foreign waters where available charts could not adequately support wartime missions. The vessel was transferred to NOAA and renamed in 2003.
The Thomas Jefferson docked at State Pier at Fort Trumbull, the normal home port of the Coast Guard barque Eagle. The 295-foot training ship was moved to safe harbor in Groton during the storm.