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Making Waves: Episode 18 (Feb. 27, 2009)

…A shipwreck in a NOAA National Marine Sanctuary is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
…And the National Geodetic Survey celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Continuously Operating Reference Station program.

Those stories are coming up today on Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

(Shipwreck Added to National Register of Historic Places)
The wreck of an early 1900s fishing vessel is the latest addition to the National Register of Historic Places. The shipwreck is called the Joffre, it’s 105 feet long, and it’s resting on the ocean floor within NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts.

The National Register is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation, and it’s administered by the National Park Service, part of the Department of the Interior.

The Joffre was launched in 1918 as a schooner that fished with baited hooks, and it was later converted to an eastern rig dragger in 1939. During its 29 years of service, Joffre’s crew landed over 15 million pounds of fish. An eastern rig dragger, by the way, was a style of fishing trawler common to the waters of Massachusetts Bay in the 20th century. These gasoline or diesel powered vessels were a transitional design between earlier wooden sailing schooners and modern-day steel trawlers.

According to Stellwagen Bank sanctuary superintendent Craig MacDonald, the shipwreck is a physical link to New England’s rich maritime heritage. What’s really unique about this ship is that it made the transition from sail to engine power, and was converted from hook fishing to trawling vessel during it’s lifespan. In that sense, it represents a time when both the fishing industry and America’s relationship to seafood dramatically changed.

The Joffre sank on Aug. 10, 1947, after its engine caught fire during a return trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts, following a ten-day fishing trip to Nova Scotia’s offshore banks. The fire quickly engulfed the wheel house, forcing the vessel’s ten man crew to abandoned ship and row to shore.

Decades later, scientists from NOAA and the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut confirmed the location of the Joffre in 2005. Then researchers documented the shipwreck site with a remotely operated vehicle to record the vessel’s features. The dragger’s remains include portions of its wooden hull, large diesel engine and propulsion machinery, and fishing gear such as its trawl winch. This work was used to establish the site’s remarkable connection to New England’s fishing heritage and the sea.

This is just one of more than a dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary located and documented by NOAA and the National Undersea Research Center at U-Conn. The wreck of the Joffre is the fourth shipwreck site in the sanctuary to be included on the National Register.

The Joffre’s location within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides protection unavailable in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving, removing, or injuring, or any attempt to move, remove, or injure any sanctuary historical resource, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary is famous as a whale watching destination. The sanctuary’s position along shipping routes and fishing grounds for Massachusetts’ oldest ports also make it a repository for shipwrecks representing several hundred years of maritime transportation.

(15th Anniversary for NGS’ CORS Program)
This month, the National Geodetic Survey is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Continuously Operating Reference Station program, known as CORS for short.

The CORS program got its humble beginning in February 1994 with the installation of a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This CORS site has remained operational for all 15 years, with a few upgrades over time.

Today, this one site is part of a network that includes more than 1,350 independently owned, operated, and maintained CORS stations. There are more than 200 partners in the CORS network representing federal, state, and local governments, as well as academic and private organizations.

So what is CORS? The CORS program provides Global Navigation Satellite System data to support three-dimensional positioning, meteorology, space weather, and geophysical applications throughout the United States, its territories, and several foreign countries.

Each station in the CORS network is a stationary, permanent GPS receiver that collects satellite signals around the clock. NGS uses these data to determine precise three-dimensional positional coordinates for the CORS sites.

NGS makes these data publicly available via the Internet. With freely available GPS data from over a thousand CORS sites, surveyors and others need only deploy one GPS receiver to position points with accuracies to within a fraction of an inch in all three dimensions.

The CORS network is an integral part of the National Spatial Reference System, which is the foundation for latitude, longitude, and elevation measurements used by all civilian federal agencies and the public. The network is expected to continue to grow at a rate of about 200 stations per year in the next few years.


That’s all for this episode. If you have any questions about this week’s podcast, about the National Ocean Service, or about our ocean, send us an email at

Let’s bring in the ocean....

This is Making Waves from NOAA’s National Ocean Service. See you next week.