NOAA and its ancestor agencies have been exploring the sea for over 170 years now, ever since the first lead line was cast from a boat surveying the coast for the United States Coast Survey. This cast of the lead occurred on the south coast of Long Island in Great Bay beginning a process that has led to the discovery of great seamounts, sinuous canyons as large as the Grand Canyon, salt domes on the Gulf Coast, oceanic trenches and fracture zones, and secrets of the movement of vast masses of water exceeding those of all the rivers of the world combined. Concurrent with these efforts to define the seafloor and ocean waters, scientists of the Coast Survey began their study of the animals of the deep sea contemporaneously with the early European pioneers of oceanography. Indeed, among our Nation’s earliest martyrs to the cause of science were eleven officers and crew of the Coast Survey Brig WASHINGTON which was caught in a hurricane while doing Gulf Stream studies on September 8, 1846.
The Coast Survey Ship BLAKE loomed large in the early studies of the Gulf Stream and the evolution of oceanographic instrumentation. It was among the most innovative of all Nineteenth Century oceanographic ships. The Sigsbee Sounding Machine, steel rope for oceanographic winches, deep-ocean anchoring, and the classic studies of the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Stream establish its rank as one of the foremost ocean research vessels of all time. After the formation of the Commission on Fish and Fisheries, forerunner of today’s National Marine Fisheries Service, this function passed to the ships of the Fish Commission such as the famous ALBATROSS, the FISH HAWK and the GRAMPUS. Like its namesake, the ALBATROSS wandered over much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during a forty-year career and possibly discovered more never-before- known deep sea creatures than any other vessel before or since.
Today NOAA continues in the tradition of these early ships and explorers. The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research has helped support expeditions to far-flung corners of the World Ocean.