USNS James M. Gilliss (T-AGOR-4)

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USNS James M Gillis T-AGOR-4.jpg
USNS James M. Gilliss (AGOR-4) on 14 December 1962
Career (USA)
Name: USNS James M. Gilliss
Namesake: James Melville Gilliss, born 6 September 1811 in the District of Columbia
Builder: Christy Corp, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Laid down: 31 May 1961
Launched: 19 May 1961
Sponsored by: Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey, wife of the Senator from Minnesota
Acquired: by the U.S. Navy, 5 October 1962
In service: 5 November 1962 as USNS James M. Gilliss (T-AGOR-4)
Out of service: date unknown
Struck: date unknown
Fate: transferred to the Mexican Navy, as Altair (H-05)
Notes: operated at an oceanographic ship by Mexico
General characteristics
Type: Robert D. Conrad-class oceanographic research ship
Tonnage: 1,200 tons
Tons burthen: 1,370 tons
Length: 209'
Beam: 40'
Draft: 16'
Propulsion: diesel-electric, single propeller, 2,500shp, retractable azimuth-compensating bow thruster
Speed: 12 knots
Complement: 23 civilian mariners, 38 scientists
Armament: none

USNS James M. Gilliss (T-AGOR-4) was a Robert D. Conrad-class oceanographic research ship acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1962. She performed various underwater surveys and tests in the Atlantic Ocean and eventually was transferred to the Mexican Navy as an oceanographic research ship in 1996.

Built in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

The second ship to be so named by the Navy, James M. Gilliss (T-AGOR-4) was laid down by Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, 31 May 1961; launched 19 May 1962; sponsored by Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey, wife of the Senator from Minnesota; delivered to the Navy 5 October 1962; and turned over to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) 5 November 1962, Captain Torston Johnson in command.

Oceanographic service

Manned by a civilian crew and carrying 15 scientists from the Naval Oceanographic Office, James M. Gilliss was the first of a new class of oceanographic ships to be operated by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). In addition to the latest in oceanographic and meteorological equipment, she also possessed unusual design features, including special antiroll tanks for stability and a retractable bow propulsion propeller. As a mobile, floating research laboratory, she was capable of carrying out experiments in sound transmission, underwater life, and ocean floor characteristics, thus enabling her to help continue the Navy's lead in the exploration and understanding of "inner space."

Searching for Thresher

Departing Sturgeon Bay 8 November, she arrived New York City 19 November for sea trials and shakedown. On 12 April 1963 she departed New York City to take part in the massive search for sunken submarine Thresher (SSN-593). Operating out of Boston, Massachusetts, she lent her "know-how" to this vital and difficult operation for 5 months before arriving Washington, D.C., 22 September. After returning to New London, Connecticut, for additional equipment tests, she departed 1 November for oceanographic research operations off Bermuda.

North Atlantic operations

During the next 4 months she operated in the Atlantic from the Bahamas to the New England coast. In March 1964 she steamed to the Caribbean for surveying and scientific work out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Arriving Key West, Florida, 28 March, she operated from the Strait of Florida to the Bahamas and Bermuda for more than a year.

Departing Key West 23 May 1965, she arrived New York 27 May and prepared for deployment to waters off the British Isles. She sailed 14 June; arrived Belfast, Northern Ireland, 27 June; and began 3 months of research and survey operations from the British Isles and France to Newfoundland.

Departing Belfast 15 September, she returned to New London 6 October and resumed research operations off the U.S. East Coast, which have continued into 1967. She continued to operate in the Atlantic from New England to the Bahamas while supporting important surveys and scientific experiments of the Naval Oceanographic Office.

Post-mission inactivation

James M. Gilliss was placed out of service on an unspecified date and transferred to the Mexican Navy on 9 December 1996 where she continued to operate for that nation as an oceanographic research ship.

See also