NOAA Ship Whiting was designed and outfitted for hydrographic and bathymetric surveys involving nautical charting and ocean mapping. Scientific equipment supported and is related to survey operations. The ship normally operated off the U.S. Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Caribbean Island territorial waters.
The ship was named after Henry Laurens Whiting, who is considered to be the best of the 19th century topographers. Henry Laurens Whiting joined the Coast Survey in 1838 and served until his death on February 4, 1897. He was the leading topographer of the United States during the nineteenth century. He was a member of the Mississippi River Commission, Professor of Topographic Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an instructor in harbor surveying at the U.S. Naval Academy.