NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter was built by VT Halter Marine Inc. in Moss Point, Mississippi. The ship was commissioned on August 28, 1998 and is currently homeported in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Gordon Gunter functions as a multipurpose oceanographic research vessel that monitors the health and abundance of fisheries resources and marine mammals. The ship primarily serves the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and operates mainly in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
After commissioning, Gordon Gunter was transferred to NOAA from the U.S. Navy (where it served as the U.S. Naval Ship Relentless ) and converted for research purposes. In addition to adding modern navigation electronics and oceanographic equipment, NOAA installed observation stations and laboratories.
Theis T-AGOS class ship has four laboratories: a wet lab for trawl sampling; a dry lab for computers and project-specific equipment; a versatile hydro-chem lab that can also be used for acoustic monitoring; and a computer lab that houses the ship’s internal network.
When surveying marine mammals, visual observers scan the ocean with 25×150 “bigeye” binoculars with each mounted on a solid platform with a rotating head. The optical equipment includes a reticle scale to enable distance measurement along a three-mile-wide vista. The ship tows a hydrophone array to hear and record marine mammal sounds 24 hours a day.The ship also collects fisheries data by stern trawling, longlining, and deploying plankton nets and other types of gear.
In 2010, NOAA called on Gordon Gunter to use its sophisticated sonar equipment and other scientific instruments to help define the subsurface plume near the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill site and adjacent area.
The ship is named after Dr. Gordon Gunter whose career as a marine biologist and leader in marine research and education spanned more than 60 years. Dr. Gunter was a guiding light in the study of the waters in which the ship operates.