NOAA Ship Surveyor—known affectionately as the “Old Workhorse”—was built by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego, California in 1959. Commisioned in April 30, 1960, the ship conducted worldwide oceanographic research and was capable of conducting hydrographic surveys for nautical charting. The ship normally operated in Pacific and Alaskan seas.
The advent of the ship marked the beginning of a major effort to modernize the Coast and Geodetic Survey fleet. The ship was the first to be outfitted with a deep-water multi-beam echosounder that allowed seafloor mapping and surveys in the U.S. West Coast—off the southern coast of Alaska throughout the Juan de Fuca Ridge area—and in Hawaii. The Surveyor was also the last steamer that served under the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1960 to 1995.
The Surveyor worked in the Pacific Ocean from the Beaufort Sea to the Palmer Peninsula of Antarctica during its career. The ship conducted hydrographic surveys in areas ranging from Norton Sound Alaska to American Samoa. It was the primary ship to study the Alaskan Arctic for the Outer Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment Program (OCSEAP) and the primary ship to study under the Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR).
This ship is commemorated by the Surveyor Fracture Zone, Surveyor Gap, and Surveyor Seachannel located in the U.S. Pacific Ocean. It discovered Axial Seamount on Endeavor Ridge—a seamount that has apparently been split in half by seafloor spreading.