At 303 feet long, NOAA Ship Discoverer was once the largest ship in the NOAA fleet. Discoverer proudly carried forward the name of an earlier U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey ship (1919-1941) that engaged in surveys of the Pacific Ocean waters, particularly the Alaskan area. The ship was operated by the Office of NOAA Corps Operations and commanded by officers of the NOAA Corps. Discoverer offered scientists and observers a unique opportunity to learn about and work in remote regions of the Pacific Ocean. Homeported in Seattle, Washington, Discoverer spent 240-270 days of the year at sea.
Discoverer focused on the collection of oceanographic and meteorological data at sea. Primary research was conducted by scientist from NOAA's own labs, college and universitiues, private research institutions, and other government agencies.
Discoverer's nominal maximum cruising range, at a standard speed of 16 knots, was 13,000 nautical miles. The ship could be provisioned for five months at sea, and her fresh water evaporators provide a continuous supply of fresh water.
The hull was of welded steel construction with structural reinforcing for operation in floe ice. Discoverer was capable of operating in conditions up to Beaufort scale 8 (fresh gale) conditions, with winds 34-40 knots and average waves to 18 feet.
Discoverer's assigned projects varied from cruise to cruise, and included biological, chemical, geological and physical oceanography, meteorological and/or seismic research.