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NOAA has commissioned a new ship for ocean mapping. Shown above is one possible design by Blue Sea Corporation. Illustration courtesy of Glosten Associates Inc., Naval Architects

The UNH Coastal Marine Laboratory in New Castle, New Hampshire, will be the permanent base for a $14 million research vessel now being designed for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) announced an initial $5 million in funding for engineering and design work on the vessel during a recent visit to New Castle. "UNH and NOAA have formed a valuable partnership that will allow scientists to perform cutting-edge research at this facility," he said.

The new vessel, which could be operational as early as 2005, represents a radical new design for coastal-survey and research purposes. Described by the acronym SWATH, for "small waterplane area twin hull," the design puts an exceptionally narrow hull area in contact with the waves and uses computer-controlled fins to virtually negate rolling in heavy seas. This will be the first vessel of its kind for NOAA, and the only one of its kind to be based in the Northeast.

"The vessel's primary mission will be operational hydrography for nautical charting,"according to Andy Armstrong, co-director of the NOAA-UNH Joint Hydrographic Center. "The charted depths in large areas of northeastern coastal waters are based on depths acquired more than 50 years ago with lead lines or widely spaced echo soundings. The SWATH will be ideally suited for the installation and testing of new sonars and other ocean-mapping sensors."

The Joint Hydrographic Center, established in June 1999 and based at the Coastal Marine Laboratory, now has more than a dozen scientists and is internationally recognized for its innovative work in the field of ocean-floor mapping. It develops and evaluates state-of-the-art hydrographic and ocean-mapping technologies and promotes the education of a new generation of hydrographers. ~

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