USNS Robert D. Conrad (T-AGOR-3)

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Name: USNS Robert Dexter Conrad
Namesake: Robert Dexter Conrad, graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, born on 20 March 1905 in Orange, Massachusetts
Builder: Gibbs Systems Inc., Jacksonville, Florida
Laid down: 19 January 1961
Launched: 26 May 1962
Sponsored by: Mrs. Edmund B. Taylor
Acquired: by the U.S. Navy, 29 November 1962
In service: circa 1962, as USNS Robert D. Conrad (T-AGOR-3)
Out of service: circa 1989
Struck: 4 October 1989
Fate: scrapped, 27 April 2004
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-correcting bow thruster
Speed: 12 knots
Complement: 23 civilian mariners, 38 scientists
Armament: none

USNS Robert D. Conrad (T-AGOR-3) was a Robert D. Conrad-class oceanographic research ship that served the U.S. Navy from 1962 to 1989. During that period – while operated by Columbia University -- she provided valuable ocean-bottom information and underwater test data to the U.S. Navy and other U.S. agencies.

Constructed at Jacksonville, Florida

Robert D. Conrad (AGOR-3) was laid down in January 1961 by Gibbs Shipyards, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida; launched on 26 May 1962; sponsored by Mrs. Edmund B. Taylor; and completed and delivered to the Navy in November 1962.

Assigned to Columbia University

After delivery, the single screw, diesel-electric, oceanographic research ship, Robert D. Conrad, was assigned to the Lamont Geological Observatory, Columbia University, for operation.

Complete with wet and dry laboratories, scientific and chart room, photo laboratory, scientific drafting room, a machine shop, two 24” diameter tubes along the centerline for lowering instruments, and a retractable propeller in the bow to maintain position while working with equipment over the side, Robert D. Conrad worked for the Observatory (renamed the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in 1993) for her entire career.

Searching for the Thresher

Much of her work has been in cooperation with the Office of Naval Research and, during the spring and summer of 1963, Submarine Development Group 2 as that group searched the ocean floor for traces of the submarine Thresher (SSN-593).

The ship collected gravity and magnetics data on the seafloor; created seismic images of rock layers below the ocean floor; dredged rock samples; took ocean-floor sediment cores (creating what is now a collection of over 13,000 cores); mapped the ocean floor with sonar; and collected water samples to explore ocean currents, temperature, salinity, marine life and other data for a wide range of oceanographic research.


Robert D. Conrad went out of service and was struck from the Navy list on 4 October 1989. The old research ship was disposed of through scrapping 27 April 2004.

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