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Release No: 640-00
October 18, 2000


The Navy launches the newest oceanographic survey ship USNS Mary Sears (T-AGS 65), on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2000, during a 1 p.m. ceremony at Halter Marine Shipyard, Moss Point, Miss.

Mary Sears becomes the 12th ship in the nation's history to be christened officially with a woman's name and the first oceanographic survey ship. The ship is named for a New England woman, Mary Sears, who as a member of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) in World War II, made pioneering efforts in oceanographic forecasting and was a major force in uniting the world oceanographic community while serving both her community and her country.

Born at the turn of the 20th century, Sears was raised in Wayland, Mass. She attended Radcliffe College from which she received a bachelor's degree in 1927, a master's degree in 1929 and a Ph.D in zoology in 1933. While a graduate student, she worked as a research assistant at Harvard University and was one of the first 10 research assistants to be appointed to the staff at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution working both as a junior biologist and planktonologist.

She then signed up as a Navy WAVE in 1943 and was sent to Washington, D.C., during World War II. Her intelligence reports, "Submarine Supplements to the Sailing Directions," predicted the presence of thermoclines, or areas of rapid water temperature change, under which a submarine could hide to escape enemy detection by surface sonar. She established a small oceanographic unit in the Navy's Hydrographic Office and helped expand the role of applied oceanography within the Navy.

Sears was a guiding force in the development of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from its founding in 1930. She continued to work there after the war, becoming a leading scientist and biologist, and was eventually named Scientist Emeritus.

Gary Kinder, best-selling author of "Ship of Gold" will be the ceremony's principal speaker. Sharing duties as ship's sponsor will be Leila Sears, sister of the ship's namesake and Alice Rivlin, senior fellow, Brookings Institution and former vice chair of the Federal Reserve. In the time-honored Navy tradition, the ship sponsors will break a bottle of champagne across the bow to name the ship formally.

The Navy's fleet of oceanographic survey ships criss-cross the world's oceans conducting oceanographic surveys. While they map the ocean floor to update nautical charts, these ships also typically conduct sampling of the physical properties of the water column and 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 to use that environment for our own purposes.

Mary Sears is the sixth ship in the Pathfinder (T-AGS 60) class. Crewed by civilian mariners, the ship is always forward deployed and has no stateside homeport. The Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C., will operate the ship for the Oceanographer of the Navy.

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. When completed, the Mary Sears will be formally delivered to the Navy by Halter Marine in December 2001.

More information about this class of ship is available on line at http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/ships/ship-tags.html.

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