NOAA ship moored in Birch Bay is updating nautical charts

Published on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Photo by Ruth Lauman

A few people have asked us here at The Northern Light for more information on the sizable ship that has been anchored in Birch Bay for the last day or so. After some digging, and much appreciated help from Washington State Department of Ecology spokesman Larry Altose, I've found out the vessel is the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ship Rainier. According to the Rainier's website, the vessel is in the middle of surveying the Strait of Georgia in order to update NOAA's nautical charts for the area.

The data the Rainier is collecting will also help provide more information on the shoals in the vicinity of Cherry Point, which is the largest tanker port in Washington. This information will be helpful to the Puget Sound pilots who steer large tankers through the sound and the Strait of Georgia. The area has seen changes in vessel traffic recently due to the increased capacity of the facilities at Cherry Point, according to a NOAA projects document.

This link provides everything you might want to know (and I do mean everything) about the Rainier right down to the computer operating software found on board. Briefly, the Rainier is 231 feet long and can reach a cruising speed of 12 knots. It weighs about 1,500 pounds and can stay out at sea for 22 days at a time. Click here for a nine-page PDF of the Rainier's specifications.

 Finally, here's how I found the Rainier. The website offers real-time updates on the location of about seven different kinds of vessels all over the world. For example, as I was writing this the site showed that researchers from the Rainier had just set out in a small launch boat. I could watch the launch boat move across Birch Bay as the vessel traffic map updated itself. How cool is that?


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