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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Last Voyage of the Albatross

I have long had a great love for the ships of Woods Hole, whether it's the USCG cutters like the Bittersweet, or the WHOI research vessels like the Chain, I have followed their comings and goings for many years.

The MV Albatross IV pulled up at the dock for the last time last week.

Here's Bruce Burdett's account from

EAST BAY — In a somber ceremony steeped in tradition, captain and crew gave a final salute to the Woods Hole research vessel Albatross IV Thursday.

Once the decommissioning order was read, the ship’s wheel was secured and the running lights extinguished. Ship personnel struck eight bells signifying the end of the watch and then lowered the vessel’s flags. In keeping with tradition, the commissioning pennant was presented to the commanding officer and the U.S. flag to the crew member with the most years of service on Albatross IV. The commanding officer then relinquished command of the ship, which will remain in Woods Hole until Dec. 5, when it will sail to NOAA’s Marine Operations Center-Atlantic in Norfolk, Va. for retirement. “It is then available for other uses,” a NOAA spokesman said.

And so ended the career of a ship that had logged 45 years of federal fisheries research service and that was often seen on Buzzards Bay, Narragansett Bay and beyond. Albatross IV logged 453 research cruises and sailed an estimated 655,000 miles.

Its missions included assessing damage done by the North Cape oil spill in Rhode Island in 1996, and the 2003 oil spill disaster off Westport.

The vessel, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been replaced by the Henry B. Bigelow.

The occasion also marked the end of an even longer run.

Vessels named Albatross have done research work out of Woods Hole almost since the nation’s first biological station was established there in 1871 and Albatross I was built as the first fishery research vessel.

Much of the data used to determine the health of fishing stocks along the continental shelf from Canada south to Cape Hatteras, including Georges Bank, has been gathered by one Albatross ship after another.

Albatross IV was designed as a fishing trawler and research platform equipped to collect information on the distribution and abundance of cod, haddock, flounder, sea scallops and marine mammals as well as environmental factors that impact these creatures. It also responded to maritime emergencies and recovered an F-16 that crashed off New Jersey.

Taking part in Thursday’s ceremony were William J. Brennan, acting under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and acting NOAA administrator, and Rear Admiral Jonathan W. Bailey, director of NOAA Corps and NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

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