Quick Links Menu.

USNS H H Hess (T-AGS 38).

USNS H H Hess (T-AGS 38).
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class: H H HESS (T-AGS 38, C4-S-1s)
Design: MA C4-S-1s
Displacement (tons): 13,520 light, 21,250 full
Dimensions (feet): 563.7' oa, 528' pp x 76' max x 31.5' load
Armament: none
Accommodations: 47 civilian, 75 Navy technicians
Speed (kts.): 21
Propulsion (HP): 19,250
Machinery: Geared steam turbines, 2 boilers (600psi), 1 screw

38H H HESS3 Mar 1977National Steel, San Diego10 Aug 196330 May 196416 Jan 1978

AGSNameTInact/CustStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale/Depart
38H H HESST21 Feb 1992/C28 Jul 19926 Jan 1993MA/T14 Jan 2011/D

Class Notes:
In 1975, after conducting deep ocean surveys since 1958, USNS MICHELSON (T-AGS 23) was declared unfit for sea by the Coast Guard 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.

In 1960–61 the American Mail Line, Ltd. had built three identical break-bulk cargo ships to transport general cargo in its subsidized liner service between ports in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the Far East. In December 1962 it ordered two additional ships of substantially similar design, OREGON MAIL and CANADA MAIL. The five ships were designed by the J. J. Henry Company of New York and Philadelphia, which also supervised their construction at the Los Angeles Division of the Todd Shipyards Corporation in San Pedro, California. The design, designated C4-S-1s by MARAD (C4-S-1sa for the last two), was an adaptation of the Mariner cargo ship design (C4-S-1a) developed in the early 1950s. It employed the same overall dimensions and horsepower as the Mariner but was modified to suit the requirements of American Mail Line’s Pacific cargo service. These modifications included an extended forecastle deck with flaring bulwarks to deflect water in higher sea states and bipod (A-frame) cargo masts in place of kingposts. OREGON MAIL was lengthened and converted to a container ship in 1971-72 but CANADA MAIL was not and was quickly overtaken by the containerization of ocean freight. In April 1974 she entered the reserve fleet at Suisun Bay in California..

To replace MICHELSON the Navy acquired CANADA MAIL and renamed her H H HESS for the geologist Harry Hammond Hess. Custody was transferred from MARAD to MSTS on 21 July 1975 with the ship to remain in the NDRF until the start of conversion originally expected to be around 1 August 1975. She was classified T-AGS 38 and renamed H H HESS by SECNAVNOTE 5030 OF 26 November 1976, probably effective 1 November 1976. Title was acquired and the ship was withdrawn from the NDRF on 3 March 1977. She was delivered after conversion and placed in service on 16 January 1978. She relieved MICHELSON while in port in Japan, where much of MICHELSON's oceanographic research equipment and her embarked Oceanographic Unit Three were transferred to HESS. Alterations resulting from the conversion were largely internal and below the waterline, and outwardly the vessel appeared little changed. The ship’s new role was deep ocean research. Carrying out missions similar to those of BOWDITCH (AGS 21) and DUTTON (AGS 22), she would stay at sea for as long as 34 days, charting the ocean’s topography and other features using multi-beam sonar. Much of this work was done in support of the Trident Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Program. She conducted this work for nearly 20 years before being taken out of service on 16 January 1992 at Port Canaveral and re-entering reserve at Suisun Bay on 21 February 1992.

Ship Notes:
38H H HESS154(ex-CANADA MAIL, compl. 12 Mar 1965, O/N 297570). Built for American Mail Line, traded in to MA 18 Apr 1974. To MA custody in JRRF 21 Feb 1992. When title was transferred to MARAD in January 1993 after NAVSEA stripping she was a candidate to replace APA 21 as the California training ship GOLDEN BEAR. She departed the JRRF 15 Nov 1993 and moved to the SBRF but she had a burned out boiler and when MAURY (ex T-AGS 39) became available she was selected instead. MAURY became the third GOLDEN BEAR on 4 May 1996. H H HESS departed SBRF for the breakers at Brownsville 14 Jan 2011 under contract with ESCO Marine. BU complete 1 Sep 2011.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 26 Oct 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: https://surveyship.blogspot.com/2020/11/michelsons-successor.html