Flagship of the NOAA fleet
The research vessel Ronald H. Brown (R 104) is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At a length of 274 feet and a displacement of 3,250 tons, it is the largest NOAA vessel. Delivered in 1997, it was the agency’s first new oceanographic research vessel in 17 years. It and three sister ships were built by Halter Marine in Pascagoula, Mississippi (the sister ships are operated by the University of Washington, Scripps, and Woods Hole). The Ronald H. Brown is operated by a crew of six officers and 20 crewmembers. It has capacity for up to 32 passengers (generally scientists) and carries out scientific missions in all the world’s oceans. It carries state-of-the-art oceanographic and atmospheric research equipment, including multibeam sonar and an acoustic Doppler current profiler. It is the only US domestic vessel to carry a Doppler radar, which is used to study precipitation patterns and storm dynamics at sea. The Ronald Brown has two electric CTD (conductivity, temperature & depth) winches and one traction winch for ocean sampling and measurements, as well as three large booms for scientific work. A CTD cast allows for collection of high resolution data not otherwise obtainable from ocean waters. One of the booms utilizes specialty cables, such as fiber-optic cables or a coaxial electro-mechanical cable used for towing side-scan sonar. The hull is ice-hardened, allowing operations in polar regions. A substantial part of the ship is dedicated to scientific laboratories. Homeported in Charleston, South Carolina, the ship is named for the former Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown, who was killed in an airplane crash on 3 April 1996 while on a trade mission to Bosnia.