Stealth Vessel: Bigelow runs quietly to monitor fish

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 208-foot fisheries research vessel Henry B. Bigelow slipped through Nantucket Sound cleanly and quietly on NOAA’s 2008 Autumn Trawl, Leg II.

Commissioned in 2007, Bigelow is the second vessel in a four-ship series being built for NOAA. The first was Oscar Dyson, currently stationed at Kodiak, Alaska.

Bigelow was fishing in parallel with NOAA’s Albatross IV, which was commissioned in 1963. This was a calibration cruise to compare and correlate the catch data with that of Albatross, anticipating the retirement of the older vessel.

Attention to quiet running is crucial in order to minimize the impact of the ship’s presence on the catch. The goal is to keep conditions in the sea as natural as possible so the fish-population data from the trawl will be as objective as possible.

“Run silent, run deep,” said Chief Bosun Ken Rondeau, who, along with Lead Fisherman Charlie Cartwright, oversees the fishing gear and fishermen aboard.

“Everything from the diesel engines to the smallest piece of machinery is mounted with vibration isolators to prevent sound vibration from being transmitted through the hull to the water,” said Chief Engineer Joe DelTorto.

Bigelow, built by VT Halter Marine, of Pascagoula, Miss., is a single-screw, diesel-electric vessel propelled by two 24-pulse DC SCR 1,150-kW drives fed by two 1,360-kW Caterpillar 3512 mains and two 910-kW Caterpillar 3508 generators. “The configuration gives us the ability to run the ship in the most efficient manner according to demand,” said DelTorto.

Bigelow may not have the lines of Albatross, but the vessel is packed with a proliferation of sophisticated gear and scientific equipment and labs, not to mention creature comforts.

“The vessel is a vehicle for scientific equipment,” said Survey Technician Peter Gamache. Prominent on the list of electronics, scientific instruments, labs, winches and deck gear is an ME 70 Simrad multi-beam echo sounder.

“There are only four of these in the world,” said Gamache, and “Unlike other sounders that either collect fish distribution or hydrographic data, this one does both. That allows us to collect fish data from areas where the fishers don’t go often, while we are collecting hydrographic data. It’s pretty cutting edge stuff.”

Capt. Anne Lynch presides over a host of consoles and electronics on the bridge, much of it focused on precise positioning, speed and tracking to facilitate the vessel’s fishing assignment. With 24 crew, 15 scientists and all that scientific and ship gear, conscientious shiphandling is required. “My job is the safe navigation of the vessel,” Lynch said.

Survey Technician Peter Gamache checks the catch, including a bull nose ray.
Skilled Fisherman Adren Martyn-Fisher and General Vessel Assistant Joe Frischolz shake loose a gillnet snagged by the cod end of the trawl.
The bridge of Bigelow. The fisheries research mission of the vessel requires precise tracking, speed monitoring and positioning.
Third Engineer Sean McCarthy and Chief Engineer Joe DelTorto.
Lt. Russell Haner, the executive officer.
Cook Alex Williams grilling fajitas for lunch.
The 208-foot Henry B. Bigelow went into service in 2007.
Rubber isolators dampen vibration in the piping of the engine systems. Noise reduction is important to prevent fish from reacting to the ship’s presence. The diesel-electric propulsion system is powered by Cat diesels.
The view out over the bow during the autumn voyage on Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound.
By Professional Mariner Staff