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USNS Michelson (T-AGS 23).

USNS Michelson (T-AGS 23).
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Class: BOWDITCH (T-AGS 21, VC2-S-AP3)
Design: SCB Project No. 179, conversion of MC VC2-S-AP3
Displacement (tons): 4,700 light, 13,050 full
Dimensions (feet): 455' oa, 444' wl x 62' e/wl x 25'
Armament: none
Accommodations: 50 civilian, 12 scientists, about 25 Navy technicians
Speed (kts.): 15
Propulsion (HP): 8,500
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (465psi/750deg), 1 screw

21BOWDITCH2 Aug 1957Oregon SB11 May 194530 Jun 19458 Oct 1958
22DUTTON5 Nov 1957Oregon SB27 Mar 19458 May 19451 Nov 1958
23MICHELSON8 Feb 1958Oregon SB5 May 194414 Jun 194415 Dec 1958

AGSNameTDeact/CustStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
22DUTTONT12 Sep 198914 Feb 199012 Nov 1993MA/T4 Sep 2007
23MICHELSONT197515 Apr 197522 Sep 1977MA/S--

Class Notes:
In early November 1956 it was announced within BUSHIPS that Admiral Raborn's Special Projects Office, as an important corollary to the FBM (then Jupiter) program, was sponsoring the conversion of three surveying ships (AGS) for precise oceanographic surveys, soon called the Ocean Survey Program. These were considered high priority items in the FY 1958 program as approved by CNO on 23 October 1956. For submarines some of the equipment installed in COMPASS ISLAND (EAG 153, q.v.) to correct and refine the SINS (Ship Inertial Navigation System) was not practical and one attractive method of solving the problem appeared to be a comprehensive underwater survey to find anomalies that were sharply defined, identifiable and returnable to. Two kinds of anomalies were geographic and magnetic, while these three ships were sometimes specifically called "gravity survey ships" indicating special interest in a third kind. A meeting was scheduled for 8 November 1956 in the Special Projects Office to discuss types of ships that might meet the needs of Special Projects and the Hydrographic Office for this mission. In early December it was decided to use Victory ships. The delay in the conversion of OBSERVATION ISLAND (EAG 154, q.v.) that resulted from the December 1956 change from Jupiter to Polaris FBMs freed up SINS equipment for use in two of the "gravity survey ships" and some other equipment for the third ship. A Ship Characteristics Board meeting was scheduled for 13 December 1956 to discuss preliminary characteristics for the survey ships. Approved characteristics for a surveying ship (AGS), SCB Project No. 179, were promulgated on 25 Feb 1957 with a final change on 30 September 1958. As of mid-December 1956 BUSHIPS was planning to complete conversion plans for signature on 15 April 1957. The ships were converted in naval shipyards and entered service with MSTS near the end of 1958.

In 1975 MICHELSON was declared unfit for sea and taken out of service. The reasons for this are obscure but it's likely the ship failed a Coast Guard inspection of the hull. The ship's mechanical systems could be repaired or replaced but the hull's integrity was another matter. MICHELSON had experienced cracks in the deck plating during the mid-1960s. To replace MICHELSON the Navy acquired the MARAD type C4-S-1s merchant ship CANADA MAIL and converted her to USNS H H HESS (T-AGS 38), q.v.

To replace BOWDITCH and DUTTON the Navy in the early 1980s planned to convert two merchant ships of the MARAD C3-S-33a type, LAKE and SCAN, then in the MARAD reserve fleet (see the AK 284 class for full details and photo), but Congressional redirection caused the Navy in November 1983 to instead build new ships. These large ships were built with FY 1985 funds and were named MAURY and TANNER, repeating the names of a pair of AKAs converted to surveying ships soon after World War II. The new MAURY entered service in 1989 around the time that the old DUTTON was inactivated, but both of the new ships were prematurely taken out of service and struck in 1994 after a catastrophic failure of the crankshaft in one of TANNER's two diesel engines, which were mounted on complex acoustic isolation rafts. Both ships found second lives as merchant marine training ships, TANNER after re-engining.

Ship Notes:
21BOWDITCH694FY 1958. (ex-SOUTH BEND VICTORY, compl. 27 Jul 1945). Converted by NSY Charleston. Damaged in hurricane Jan 1987 at Rio de Janeiro. To MA custody 30 Sep 1987. Disposed of by MA exchange sale 4 Mar 1988.
22DUTTON682FY 1958. (ex-TUSKEGEE VICTORY, compl. 5 Jun 1945). Renamed/reclassified 8 Aug 57. Converted by NSY Philadelphia. To MA custody 25 Oct 1989. Departed under dismantlement contract 2 Oct 2007. BU complete 5 Jun 2008.
23MICHELSON114FY 1958. (ex-JOLIET VICTORY, compl. 7 Jul 1944). Converted by NSY Philadelphia. Declared unfit for sea by the USCG ca. 1975 while in port in Japan and to MA custody 29 Apr 1975. Replaced by H H HESS (T-AGS 38). To buyer 17 Oct 1977.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 19 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021