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Utility Navigation

Marine Operations


NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler is a hydrographic survey vessel whose primary mission is to map coastal waters to update nautical charts. The ship also supports many other activities, including testing of autonomous underwater vehicles, buoy deployment and recovery, and general oceanographic research.

The ship’s side scan sonar collects imagery of the sea floor, which can identify obstructions or wrecks that could be navigational hazards. The sonar emits sounds waves in a swath, which generates a detailed image of objects on the sea floor.

To obtain accurate depth measurements (within 10 centimeters), the ship uses multibeam echo sounders. The bathymetric data can be converted into three-dimensional models to provide extremely accurate depths and detailed images of the sea floor and objects.

The 124-ft. Ferdinand R. Hassler is designed as a small waterplane area twin hull, or SWATH, vessel for improved stability and seakeeping. The ship’s dry lab space is configured for hydrographic data acquisition and processing, and can be reconfigured to meet other scientific needs. The ship also has a dive locker with compressor and filling station. In addition to the installed equipment, the ship can also carry a 25 ft. survey launch/utility boat, or a 20 ft. science van, further extending the mission capabilities of this platform. An ample aft working deck served by a stern A-frame and knuckle boom crane provide maximum mission flexibility.

The ship is one of NOAA’s most valuable assets following a severe weather event or ocean emergency. Even before she was officially commissioned in 2012, the ship was deployed in response to a U.S. Coast Guard request for assistance following Hurricane Irene. The ship conducted hydrographic surveys around the clock in Hampton Roads, Virginia, applying its state-of-the-art assets to looking at seafloor changes, searching for underwater hazards that would pose a danger to ships, and helping to restore port operations to its full capacity.

Ferdinand R. Hassler was named for Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, a visionary scientist who planned the Survey of the Coast after President Jefferson signed the enacting legislation in 1807. Hassler became the first superintendent of Coast Survey, serving until his death in 1843. The ship is homeported in New Castle, New Hampshire.

To learn more about the ship's nautical charting mission, visit

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Reviewed: November 22, 2015. Contact us with page issues.

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