The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel Rainier pulls into port at Coast Guard Station Juneau on Sept. 16, 2020 for rest and replenishment of stores. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel Rainier pulls into port at Coast Guard Station Juneau on Sept. 16, 2020 for rest and replenishment of stores. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

NOAA survey vessel takes break from updating charts in Juneau

It will not be open to public tours due to pandemic concerns, unfortunately.

The National Oceanography and Atmospheric Administration vessel NOAAS Rainier will take time off its schedule of updating charts in Southeast Alaska for some rest and replenishment in Juneau.

“We’ll be here about two weeks,” said its captain, NOAA officer Cmdr. Samuel Greenway, in a phone interview. “We’ll swap out some crew, take some time off, and get some supplies and provisions loaded.”

The ship has been at sea in the channels and bays of the Southeast, updating the hydrological charts for the region, Greenway said.

“We were working at Endicott Arm. We tried to get up to glacier face, but it was too choked in with ice,” Greenway said. “We surveyed Thomas Bay down by Petersburg. That’ll be a real nice update, since the last time that was surveyed in the 1920s.”

[Community spread of the coronavirus hits new high]

The Rainier is a purpose-built survey vessel, one of several in NOAA’s lists. It’s familiar with the waters of Southeast Alaska, Greenway said.

“The Rainier is about 50 years old and she’s spent quite a bit of time in Southeast Alaska,” Greenway said. “This ship was built as a hydrographic survey ship in 1967 and that’s primarily what she’s doing.”

Rainier was working near Hawaii earlier in the year, though the coronavirus scuttled plans to do some work near Guam, Greenway said.

“Our work out in Guam was postponed and finally canceled. It’s certainly made logistics a lot harder, getting people on board,” Greenway said. “A ship out at sea is a difficult environment.”

Greenway is familiar with the Rainier, having served aboard it as a junior officer.

“I’m really happy to be back out here. This was my first ship here as an ensign 16 years ago,” Greenway said. “It’s real nice to be back here as the captain.”

NOAA’s commissioned officer corps, a little more than 300 personnel, goes to officer commissioning school at the Coast Guard Academy, splitting off near the end of the course into service-specific training, Greenway said. NOAA’s mission and tradition of science and service appealed to him, Greenway said, leading him to join the service.

The Rainier will return to work in the Southeast until late October before returning to its homeport in Newport, Oregon for the winter, Greenway said.

Due to coronavirus concerns, the vessel will not be granting tours to the public while in port this year.

Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com

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