NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

Meet the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown. This state-of-the-art oceanographic and atmospheric research vessel is the largest ship in the NOAA fleet, measuring 274 feet and displacing more than 3,200 tons.

Since being commissioned in July 1997, the Ron Brown has traveled from its home port in Charleston, South Carolina, to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Numerous on-board instruments are used to collect and assess scientific data from above and below the ocean surface, allowing us to simultaneously measure the atmosphere and the ocean and increase our understanding of global climatic changes and other environmental issues.


Science and Research Support

Scientists and crew prepare to launch a sediment trap from the Ron Brown.

Scientists and crew prepare to launch a sediment trap from the Ron Brown. Click image for larger view.

Two Global Positioning System-based radiosonde systems on the ship are used to monitor weather. A radiosonde is attached to a weather balloon and released into the upper atmosphere to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, and concentrations of ozone. The data is then transmitted to ground receivers for processing and analysis.

Additional meteorological sensors on the ship measure precipitation, wind speed and direction, and short-wave radiation.

To study phenomena beneath the ocean’s surface, the Ron Brown is equipped with two shallow-water echo sounders that can develop broad-based profiles of the seafloor at depths up to 1,000 meters. These echo sounders can also be used to locate fish for studies of species distribution and abundance. A multibeam survey system on the ship uses an advanced sonar system to create bathymetric (underwater topography) charts, as well as detailed three-dimensional images of the seafloor.

An acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) on the Ron Brown allows scientists to measure the speed and direction of water currents beneath the vessel. A Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth, or CTD, device can be used to measure conductivity and temperature changes in the water column relative to depth. Additional instruments on board the ship are available to also measure salinity, fluorescence, conductivity, and temperature.

The Ron Brown also has a series of cranes and winches for loading supplies and scientific gear, as well as several cranes and booms to accommodate the transfer of heavier equipment to and from the ship. An A-frame mounted on the vessel’s stern is used to deploy and recover submersibles, surface floats, and smaller support boats.


Navigation and Communications

The network and computer systems aboard the Ron Brown are used for everything from sensor acquisition and data analysis to administration and payroll. Nearly all of the ship's scientific devices are integrated into an on board oceanographic system called the Scientific Computing System (SCS). The SCS is a network that collects, stores, processes, retrieves, and sends oceanographic data from all the navigation and environmental sensors, bathymetric sonar systems, and other mission sensors. Internet access is readily available on the ship.


The Crew

Operated by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, the Ron Brown is staffed with 28 operating crew, including six NOAA Corps officers and personnel within the Engineering, Deck, Stewards, Survey, and Electronics Departments. The ship can carry up to 32 scientists and endure up to 60 days at sea with a range of 11,300 nautical miles and a cruising speed of 12 knots.


To learn more:

NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown, NOAA Marine Operations Center