June 15, 2012

Delaware arrival
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The 147-foot Delaware arrives in Boston Harbor. Prior to the creation of NOAA in 1970, the federal fisheries service was part of the Department of the Interior's US Fish and Wildlife Service, hence the FWS 1602 on the hull under the ship's name. (Photo credit: NEFSC/NOAA)

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M/V Delaware (the first Delaware)

An Overview of the Delaware II's Namesake

The M/V Delaware was a conventional side-rigged North Atlantic otter or "beam trawler" designed and built for fishing in the North Atlantic. The keel was laid on October 27, 1936 at the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine and the steel-hulled trawler was launched February 25, 1937 for Booth Fisheries Co. of Boston.

World War II brought a new name and new mission for the vessel. It was acquired by the US Navy in August 1940 and converted into a minesweeper at the Bethlehem Steel Company in East Boston, Mass.

The vessel, renamed the USS Flicker (AM-70), was commissioned in October 1940 and completed its conversion for wartime service in March 1941. Named after a medium-sized member of the woodpecker family common to eastern North America, the ship conducted minesweeping operations off Bermuda and the Virginia Capes before heading much further south to serve off the coast of Brazil. The USS Flicker served as a harbor entrance guard ship at Recife, Brazil, and later conducted operations from Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, Brazil. After repairs in Norfolk, Flicker headed north to carry cargo to ports in Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and patrolled off Newfoundland before returning to Boston in late 1944.

USS Flicker was decommissioned in early 1945 and transferred to the Maritime Commission. The ship returned to Booth Fisheries in Boston to resume commercial fishing in 1946. Two years later the Delaware was assigned to the US Army, AMG, at Bremerhaven, West Germany and fished for the West German fleet during the post-war rehabilitation.

In 1950, the federal fisheries service, then part of the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service, acquired the vessel and returned to its original name, Delaware (official number FWS-1602). It supported fishing and research operations in the Northwest Atlantic until 1968, when it was replaced by the new Delaware II and sold.

A conventional commercial North Atlantic otter trawler built of steel with modifications for research work, the M/V Delaware was 147.5 ft long, with a beam of 26 ft, draft of 14 ft. 8 in., displacement of 518 tons, and a cruising range of 8,000 nautical miles. Accommodations were available for 23 people (13-17 crew and 2-4 scientists).

Research cruises conducted by the Delaware included studies to determine the vertical distribution of fish eggs and larvae on Georges Bank, sea scallop distribution and abundance, haddock tagging and population east of Cape Cod, and for testing high-speed plankton samplers southeast of Block Island. Other projects included determining the distribution and abundance of young-of-the-year haddock and other fishes from the Bay of Fundy southward to Hudson Canyon. Shrimp, lobster, herring, and tuna explorations were a common mission, as were plankton surveys, trawl gear testing, evaluation of fish handling systems, and submerged gear observations during which underwater cameras were used for the first time.