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USNS Kellar (T-AGS 25) on 14 January 1969.
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Class: KELLAR (T-AGS 25)
Design: SCB Project Nos. 214 and 709.65 (small type)
Displacement (tons): 1,297 full load (1,320 AGS 25)
Dimensions (feet): 208.3' oa, 196’ wl x 39.4' molded x 13.9' mean full load
Accommodations: 12 officers, 18 unlicensed, 15 NAVOCEANO survey party (13 in AGS 25)
Speed (kts.): 12 (sustained)
Propulsion (HP): 1,000
Machinery: Diesel electric, 1 screw
|25||KELLAR||18 Jan 1962||Marietta Mfg., Pt. Pleasant, WVa.||20 Nov 1962||30 Jul 1964||31 Jan 1969|
|31||S P LEE||6 Dec 1965||Defoe, Bay City||27 Jun 1966||19 Oct 1967||2 Dec 1968|
|25||KELLAR||T||1972||1992?||21 Jan 1972||Trf||--|
|31||S P LEE||T||1 Aug 1992||1 Oct 1992||7 Dec 1992||Trf||--|
The FY 1962 shipbuilding program included one new small AGS that became KELLAR (AGS 25). Approved characteristics for a Surveying Ship (AGS), SCB Project No. 214, were promulgated on 13 December 1960 and CNO directed that she was to be designed as much as possible as a follow ship to the AGOR 3 class with the research spaces adaptable for hydrographic surveys. The contract design for the ship was completed on 25 September 1961 and invitations to bid were sent out in October, with a specified delivery date of February 1964. On 18 January 1962 a fixed price contract was concluded with the lowest bidder, the Marietta Manufacturing Co. of Point Pleasant, W. Va. This yard, located on the Ohio River, had built over 800 small vessels since 1920, mostly barges but also a class of Army mine planters during World War II, and just before winning the contract for KELLAR had won the contact for USNS SANDS and LYNCH (AGOR 6-7). After a quick start of construction KELLAR experienced a series of floods, freezes, shipyard strikes, labor-management disputes a flu epidemic, extended construction delays, and finally a Navy decision in 1964 to terminate the contract. After KELLAR was launched in July 1964 (an event originally scheduled for 1 August 1963) the Navy had her moved to New Orleans for completion at another yard. The contract with Marinette was formally cancelled on 14 April 1965 and completion was assigned to Avondale Shipyards at New Orleans.
On 9 September 1965, before the completion work started, New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Betsy. The Commander of the Eighth Naval District reported to CNO during the storm that "KELLAR (AGS 25), recently delivered by contractor unfinished (85% complete) and unmanned, hit by one of many drifting merchantmen and torn loose from moorings. Unable to relocate as yet." She had been rammed, holed, and torn loose from her moorings by a drifting crane barge and one or more merchantmen and driven by the weather and additional collisions to a point about 900 yards from her berth where she rolled over and sank between two sewer outlets. Salvage operations began on 27 September 1965 and she was refloated on 10 November 1965. After the ship was cleaned out her design was updated, with the surveying modifications ultimately including the extension of the aft end of the superstructure to enlarge the survey control center and provide a scientific instrument shop, the conversion of office space to a scientific study and gravity monitoring room, the replacement of the oceanographic boats with a 26-foot survey launch and a 16-foot Boston whaleboat, the addition of multi-beam echo sounders, a side scanning sonar, a stabilized gyro compass, a 19-inch searchlight on the pilot house, and an active powered rudder, and the deletion of some oceanographic-specific items including deep-sea bow anchoring facilities and a bow thruster. A new contract for her completion was then concluded on 30 July 1966 with the Boland Machine and Manufacturing Co. of New Orleans with a delivery date of January 1969, which was met. KELLAR finally entered service about a month after S P LEE, which had been ordered almost four years later.
On 1 Jan 1962 a second ship initially described as an AGOR-3 Class (SCB 185) ship was scheduled for operation as an applied research ship. The approved characteristics for a Surveying Ship (AGS), SCB Project No. 214, were updated for a small surveying ship for FY 1964 on 12 April 1963 and as SCB Project No. 709.65 on 20 February 1964, with revised characteristics for SCB Project No. 709.65, being approved on 9 December 1968. This second ship, which became S P LEE (AGS 31) was finally budgeted in FY 1965 as an AGS (SCB 709.65) along with the first new large AGS, CHAUVENET (AGS 29, SCB 708.65). (AGS 30 was an ex-World War II AVP, SAN PABLO.) On 17 Jul 1965 the mission of the ship was changed from applied research to survey ship and she was listed as a replacement for SHELDRAKE (AGS 19, ex AM 62). The rigs and dates of the two small surveying ships indicate that AGS 25 was a variant of the AGOR 6 type while AGS 31 was a variant of the AGOR 9 type. In November 1965 AGS 31 was transferred to the charting and mapping program element. Both AGS 25 and AGS 31 were officially described in 1969 as designed and equipped to collect depth soundings in the coastal waters of the world in response to economic and military charting requirements of the United States. Both were operated by MSTS under the technical direction of the Commander, U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office.
On 30 September 1969 MSTS informed MARAD that the Oceanographer of the Navy had scheduled four ships including three Navy-designed 208-foot oceanographic hulls, AGOR 4-5 and AGS 31, for deactivation and layup (soon changed to reduced readiness status) for a minimum period of one year as part of an AGOR cutback program. (The fourth ship was probably AGS 36, see AGM 16.) In June 1970 he assigned AGS 31 to the Naval Undersea Research and Developmennt Center (NUC) at San Diego for use as a laboratory research vessel for a minimum of two years. Her mission was to produce acoustic information in support of both anti-submarine and pro-submarine operations. The transfer occurred on 10 September 1970, and on 23 September 1970 the Oceanographer asked OPNAV to change the hull designation of the ship from T-AGS 31 to T-AG 192 for the period of her assignment to NUC. The classification was changed by CNO on 25 September 1970 effective that date. At NUC she took over programs previously handled by REXBERG (EPCER 855) and MARYSVILLE (EPCER 857). Her initial two year assignment at NUC was extended to February 1974 although she spent part of that time in ready reserve status. Both AGS 25 and AGS 31 had unusually short Navy careers, the former being loaned to Portugal in 1972 and the latter to the Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1974.
|25||KELLAR||FY 1962. Sunk in hurricane Betsy at New Orleans 9 Sep 1965 while in Navy hands, raised and completed by Boland Machine and Manufacturing Co. at New Orleans. Operated by MSTS for the Naval Oceanographic Office. Replaced in coastal survey work in the Pacific in 1971 by USNS CHAUVENET (T-AGS 29). Loaned to Portugal as ALMEIDA CARVALHO (commissioned 21 Jan 1972 at Treasure Is., Calif., arrived at Lisbon 12 Mar 1972). Sold to Portugal 11 Feb 1988. Replaced by DOM CARLOS I (ex T-AGOS 11) and retired 1997. Struck 4 Dec 2002. Scuttled 21 Sep 2013 as an artificial reef and dive site as part of the Ocean Revival Project off Portimão on the southern coast of Portugal.|
|31||S P LEE||FY 1965. Name assigned 17 Aug 1966. To MSTS 13 Dec 1968 and briefly operated by MSTS for the Naval Oceanographic Office. On 25 September 1970 effective that date S P LEE (T-AGS 31) was reclassified to T-AG 192 while assigned to NUC San Diego. Loan to C&GS Feb 1974 to 1 Aug 1992, officially transferred 27 Feb 1974. Operated by the University of Hawaii from 1983 to 1992 and sometimes referred to as R/V SAMUEL P. LEE. FMS sale to Mexico 1992 as ANTARES (BI 04). Based at Veracruz 2022.|
Compiled: 19 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021