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Mary Sears (T-AGS-65)

2001–

The first U.S. Navy ship named for Mary Sears (18 July 1905–2 September 1997). For additional information see About Mary Sears at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7718.

(T-AGS-65: displacement 5,000; length 329'; beam 58'; draft 19'; speed 16 knots; complement 51; armament none; class Pathfinder)

Mary Sears (T-AGS-65) was laid down on 28 July 1999 at Moss Point, Miss., by Halter Marine, Inc.; launched on 19 October 2000; sponsored by Mrs. Alice M. Rivlin, Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve; and placed in service with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) on 17 December 2001.

Mary Sears (T-AGS-65) 2001-MSC
Mary Sears supports worldwide oceanography programs, including performing acoustical, biological, physical, and geophysical surveys. (Unattributed or dated U.S. Navy photograph, Mary Sears (T-AGS-65), Ship Inventory, MSC)

On 26 December 2004, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggering a tsunami across the Indian Ocean littoral. The waves reached heights of 30 feet in shallow waters and a width sometimes extending to six miles, and the disaster killed more than 230,000 people. Combined Support Force 536 coordinated Operation Unified Assistance — multinational relief efforts. United States naval forces often reached disaster zones before international aid agencies, and aircraft delivered supplies and emergency responders to otherwise inaccessible inland areas. Aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72),  at Hong Kong when the disaster struck, soon received orders directing her to assist relief efforts, and she sailed from Hong Kong on 28 December. Upon arrival in the stricken region, the ship maneuvered off the Indonesian coast from positions near Banda Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra, that provided strategic locations near to the areas devastated by the tsunami, facilitating efforts to reach victims of the tragedy.

Additional ships that supported those operations included amphibious assault ships Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and Essex (LHD-2) -- that relieved Bonhomme Richard on 18 January 2005 -- dock landing ships Fort McHenry (LSD-43) and Rushmore (LSD-47), amphibious transport dock Duluth, guided missile cruiser Bunker Hill (CG-52), guided missile destroyer Milius (DDG-69), guided missile frigate Thach (FFG-43), and Coast Guard high endurance cutter Munro (WHEC-724). At various times, vessels of the MSC also supported Unified Assistance including Mercy, combat store ships Niagara Falls (T-AFS 3) and San Jose (T-AFS-7), and oilers John Ericsson (T-AO-194), Tippecanoe (T-AO-199) and Yukon (T-AO-202). Maritime prepositioning ships of the command that took part in these humanitarian relief operations comprised container and roll-on/roll-off ships PFC James Anderson Jr. (T-AK-3002), Cpl Louis J. Hauge Jr. (T-AK-3000), 1st Lt Alex Bonnyman (T-AK-3002), 1st Lt Harry L. Martin (T-AK-3015), 1st Lt Jack Lummus (T-AK-3011), and Maj Stephen W. Pless (T-AK-3007). Oceanographic survey ships John McDonnell (T-AGS-51) and Mary Sears conducted hydrographic surveys of the ocean bottom off the Indonesian coast, near the epicenter of the earthquake, to collect data to assist in predicting natural disasters.

Adam Air Flight KI-574, a Boeing 737-400 en route from Surabaya to Manado, Indonesia, crashed into the Makassar Strait, killing all 102 people on board, on 1 January 2007. Mary Sears had deployed to the Western Pacific when she received orders to come about for Indonesian waters and assist in the search for survivors or wreckage. The ship reached the coast of Sulawesi on 9 January, and joined international aircraft and ships in the search, using her advanced side scan sonar to map the possible location of the jet. Mary Sears found the aircraft’s “black boxes” -- the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder -- in waters about 6,600 feet (2,000 meters) deep and 6,200 (1,900), respectively, off West Sulawesi nearly .87 miles (1.4 kilometers) apart on 21 January. The ship also recovered scattered wreckage that aided investigators in determining the possible cause of the tragedy.

Mary Sears returned to Indonesian waters the following year, and when she visited Tanjung Priok, Jakarta, Indonesia, from 18–22 February 2008, her visit marked 30 years of bilateral cooperation in hydrographic surveying between the U.S. and Indonesian navies. “Indonesia and the United States have a long history of hydrographic and oceanographic cooperation,” Capt. John Cousins, commanding officer of the Naval Oceanographic Office, based at Stennis Space Center, Miss., observed. “We hope our visit here to Jakarta will lead to even more cooperation between our offices in the future.” Beginning in 1978, the Americans and Indonesians carried out more than 200 survey missions across Indonesia, a vast archipelago of about 17,000 islands. Mary Sears used her sophisticated technology to create three-dimensional maps of the sea floor for navigators, and sensors to measure water temperature, salinity, and currents.

Mary Sears (T-AGS-65) 2001-Sealift
Chief Mate Andrew Swan gives a tour of Mary Sears’ bridge to visiting Indonesian officers from Jawatan Hidro-Oseanografi TNI AL, the Indonesian naval oceanographic office, at Tanjung Priok, Jakarta, Indonesia, 20 February 2008. (Edward Baxter, U.S. Navy photograph, Sealift, April 2008)

Detailed history pending.

Mark L. Evans

10 December 2015

Published:Mon Jan 11 14:38:49 EST 2016