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 News Article

Navy Ship Clears the Way for Philippines Relief Operation

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannon Heavin
Commander, Task Force 70 Public Affairs

PHILIPPINE SEA, Nov. 17, 2013 – The USNS Bowditch oceanographic survey ship was first on scene off the coast of Tacloban, Republic of the Philippines, ensuring safe sea lanes in order for the George Washington Strike Group to assist the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Operation Damayan.

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The USNS Bowditch oceanographic survey ship at sea. U.S. Navy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Bowditch serves as an oceanographic sampling platform for surface, mid-water and ocean floor data collection. When a significant storm event passes through an area, surveys of this nature are required to confirm bottom features and identify navigational hazards. The ship has been performing acoustical, biological, physical and geophysical surveys in the off-shore waters of the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan struck.

“Bowditch has been a fantastic member of the strike group because in the wake of a major disaster like this, especially in an area that is known for shifting sands, it’s important that we get a very accurate description of the topographic levels of the ocean so that we can safely place our relief-assistance ships, typically the amphibious ships as they get close to shore,” said Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander of the George Washington Strike Group.

“Bowditch was nearly first on scene and has been working the Leyte Gulf aggressively, and she’ll be wrapping up in the next 24 to 36 hours,” Montgomery said. “A very impressive work ethic displayed by Bowditch has contributed significantly to the overall success of the maritime component of this disaster relief mission.”

Bowditch gathered data that provided much of the military's information on the ocean environment, which in turn, stabilized the safety and mission of sailors and other U.S. service members. The ship’s success comes from its multi-beam contour mapping system, and wide-angle side-scan sonar systems, which continuously collect data over a broad strip of ocean floor.

Bowditch also employs two hydrographic survey launches, small boats that use single and multi-beam echo-sounders and streamed side-scan sonar systems to collect data in very shallow regions. The waters close to the shoreline tend to have the most significant changes in the ocean bottom due to shifted debris and bottom features. However, relief efforts depend heavily on proximity to the shore to get supplies to where they need to go.

“Bowditch has already provided charted data of safe, navigable channels and identified new hazards that will prove invaluable in the relief efforts that have and will continue to occur in the region,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mark Murnane, the Washington strike group’s naval oceanographer.

Bowditch is operated by the Military Sealift Command for the Naval Oceanographic Office, a component of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command headquartered at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The ship is one of six Pathfinder-class vessels with an all-civilian crew of professional mariners and scientific support personnel. With a 329-foot length and a 58-foot beam, the Bowditch displaces 4,762 long tons.


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Related Sites:
Special Report: Operation Damayan
USNS Bowditch
Military Sealift Command
Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command

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