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banner - history of the uss oceanographer ags 3


At one time the $3,000,000 luxury yacht of J.P. Morgan, Sr., the USS OCEANOGRAPHER (AGS 3) began service as a commissioned vessel ( for the second time ) on 15 August 1942 at the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Company's yards, Norfolk, Va. Commander Henry B. Campbell of the U.S. Coastal and Geodetic Survey accepted first command and Lieutenant Commander Myron W. Graybill, USN, went aboard as Executive Officer along with the ship's company of 14 officers and 132 enlisted personnel.

Formerly the Corsair II, she was built in 1897 and served as a pleasure craft until 1930, except for a brief period during World War 1. At that time, in her commissioned status, she was credited with sinking a German U-boat. After lowering financier Morgan's pennant about 1930, the floating castle did service with the U.S. Coastal and Geodetic Survey, but with another war raging, she was further outfitted, re-rigged and degaussed at the Norfolk yards for survey duty with the U.S. Fleet.

oceanographer
Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship OCEANOGRAPHER. World War II service
1942-1944. Known as "The Green Goblin". Served in the Solomon Islands. Hydrographers off this vessel named Ironbottom Sound



After trial runs in the Chesapeake Bay, OCEANOGRAPHER sailed for New York on 3 October 1942, proceeding from there to Cristobal, Canal Zone in convoy, visiting Guantanamo, Cuba. Transiting the Canal, she reported for duty with Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. On her way from Balboa, C.Z., to San Pedro, California for voyage repairs, she stopped at Manzanillo, Mexico for fuel.

Repairs having been made in San Pedro at Bethlehem Steel Company's yards, OCEANOGRAPHER got underway again. En route for Seattle, Washington she encountered a severe storm off Astoria, Oregon, necessitating further repairs which were made at the Winslow Marine Railway Company, Bainbridge Island, Washington. Due to her age and an incomplete conversion, the boilers were patched-up affairs, the decks and superstructure leaked and weaved when the ship rolled and the living compartments were flooded whenever the ship took water. In spite of these conditions, she received orders to steam via the Inside Passage to Kodiak, Alaska, where she reported to the Alaskan Command. At the time the ship had no sound or radar gear and a very short cruising range. To add to the difficulty she could not maintain herself in fresh water supply and was considered generally unsuitable for duty in the Aleutian islands.

On 25 December 1942 OCEANOGRAPHER returned to Seattle via the Gulf of Alaska and the Inside Passage and turned in for additional repairs at the Winslow Marine Railway Company. After towing a YCV from Seattle to San Francisco, California, she was assigned to the Matson Navigation Company for repairs. At this point it was very questionable as to the advisability of her remaining in commission, but before a decision could be reached, orders arrived for her to report to the South Pacific. Commander Campbell suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. Commander M.W. Graybill assumed command on 2 March 1943 and the following day OCEANOGRAPHER got underway for Pearl Harbor, T.H., to report to Service Squadron Two, Pacific Fleet.

With sound gear installed and necessary alterations made, the Green Gremlin ( so called because of her paint-job ) left Pearl Harbor escorting several LST's and plotted a course for Noumea, New Caledonia via Pago Pago, Samoa and Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. During the trip several underwater contacts were made but none proved fruitful. OCEANOGRAPHER now received her first survey assignment in the war zone, which was to survey Havannah Passage, New Caledonia to chart a safe passage through the razor edged coral reefs. Adding to the hazards of the shipping traffic into Noumea from the east and north were two potential fates, one being an unpredictable and treacherous current which already had accounted for ten broken hulls at the bottom, having been mercilessly swept onto the reefs. The other grave danger was that of Jap submarines which frequently lay in waiting off Bulari pass, the only other entrance to Noumea, at that time being our major base in the South Pacific.

Upon completion of the Havannah Passage charts the ship made three other surveys in the vicinity of Noumea, erected numerous beacons and planted many buoys, aiding in navigation through the outlying reefs and anchorages, and on 1 November 1943, OCEANOGRAPHER proceeded to Guadalcanal via Espiritu Santo to make charts of the north coast of the "Canal". On 15 August she had sent a survey team to Munda, New Georgia, British Solomon Islands to conduct a survey of Munda Bar and neighboring anchorages. This mission was accomplished and the party returned to the ship in December 1943. At various times sub-chasers and YPC's were assigned to the Gremlin to assist in the surveys and dispatch triangulation parties to islands in the vicinities.

A second team had been dispersed earlier in November to make a chart of Torokina, Bougainville. Upon completion of this chart, they plotted a chart of Treasury Island, Sasavelle Anchorage at New Georgia and also installed a measured mile range on Rendova Island, B.S.I., for PT boats.

As the OCEANOGRAPHER was not outfitted to print her own charts, such facilities had to be used wherever a press could be found. The USS PATHFINDER and USS APPALACHIAN, printing unit of Commander South Pacific, and various Army engineering units had such equipment which was utilized and therefore there was not too much delay in the ship's chart production. Army and Navy aviation photographic units assisted in making direly needed aerial photos to further achievement in the assignment. The ship surveyed 60 miles of the north coast of Guadalcanal, installing buoys and beacons necessary for safe navigation. These buoys were fashioned aboard from whatever metal could be obtained as there were no other buoys available.

With the Guadalcanal area charted, OCEANOGRAPHER moved into the Florida Islands and there, laid out a degaussing range at Tulagi and remade a chart of Purvis Bay to provide more anchorage for this vital and busy pinpoint in the South Pacific. In February 1944, a survey of Sea Lark Channel between Florida Island and Guadalcanal was completed and she next charted Indispensable Strait, which lies between Malaita and Santo Isabel Islands, B.S.I.

The Indispensable Strait assignment called for about 5,800 square miles to be plotted. Shoals for miles around Ramos Island in the middle of the strait were marked as unsafe on the old charts and they proved doubtful, incorrect and in general unreliable. During this survey task, the teams had been strafed and bombed but were fortunate enough to escape without injuries or losses. Although the skipper always notified operating units in the vicinity of the survey team of the presence of his men, often some "trigger happy" Yankee aviator, who either hadn't gotten the news or just wasn't taking any chances, would swoop down with guns blazing, raising havoc with the nerves and technical work of the survey group.

Many underwater contracts were made but all were doubtful and no Jap subs were sunk. Anchorages were found wherever available in the nearest spot to the next day's work and all difficulties of the survey, including a beacon was built in spite of threats from New Zealanders, who maintained a radar station there, who stated that they would shoot if an attempt was made to land on "their" territory.

The men from the OCEANOGRAPHER found that the natives were always cordial and helped many times with their local knowledge in conducting surveys, setting up camps, providing water, etc., to isolated charting parties. On one occasion, Commander Graybill was talking to a native chief and was informed that the Japanese had brought a woman with them. He questioned the statement and asked for proof. "I ate her," said the chief simply, thus ending the discussion.

As the Indispensable Strait chart was completed, the ship was badly in need of repairs and accordingly OCEANOGRAPHER was ordered to Pearl Harbor, proceeding 3 June 1944 via Funa Futi, Ellice Islands. Upon arriving, she was ordered to Terminal island, San Pedro, California on 27 June 1944. After being duly inspected by the Board of Inspection and Survey, it was decided to decommission and scrap her. Commander Graybill read the decommissioning orders on 19 September 1944. As he ordered the commissioning pennant and ensign to be lowered, OCEANOGRAPHER's crew stood at attention and saluted. Quickly their seabags were loaded into a truck and the ship turned over to the drydock representative.

A few months later she was scrapped in accordance with the original agreement with J.P. Morgan, Jr., thus ending the saga of the USS OCEANOGRAPHER (AGS 3), one time fabulous yacht and veteran of two wars.

Stenciled 10/15/47

U. S. Navy History of the USS OCEANOGRAPHER (AGS 3)

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