After a career of 45 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship Albatross IV was decommissioned Nov. 20, 2008, by NOAA in a ceremony at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass., the ship’s home port. Albatross IV conducted 453 cruises and covered more than 655,000 miles during its service, mostly conducting fishery stock assessment surveys and marine mammal and plankton surveys along the northeast coast of the U.S.
Built in 1962 by Southern Shipbuilding Corporation of Slidell, La., the 187-foot research vessel’s work provided the foundation for managing fishery resources in the Northeast region, creating the longest time series of standardized fishery population data. Albatross IV spent an average of 250 days at sea each year and collected more than 17,000 scientific specimens of which 613 were uniquely identified species. Most of the collection is stored at the Smithsonian Institution.
Albatross IV was also a unique vessel for 1962. Designed by the Boston architectural firm Dwight S. Simpson & Associates, the ship had a variable pitch propeller and a steering nozzle instead of a rudder. It also had a bow thruster and was the first stern ramp trawler to be built in the U.S. The ship underwent two major overhauls during its career, the first in 1988 and the second in 2003.
In addition to its routine survey work, during the 1970s Albatross IV also participated in joint research projects with research vessels from the former Soviet Union. The ship has been used as a rapid response vessel and has been dispatched to assist in oil spills and has, on occasion, rescued mariners in peril.
Albatross IV’s decommissioning ends a 126-year history that began in 1882 with the first Albatross, a 234-foot steamer (also rigged as a brigantine) and the first ship specifically built for marine research. Albatross IV will be replaced by the new 209-foot NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow.