Laura Guertin: A shout-out to Oscar Dyson, the person and the ship, June 13, 2023

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Laura Guertin

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 10 – June 22, 2023

Mission: 2023 Summer Acoustic-Trawl Survey of Walleye Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska
Geographic Area of Cruise: Islands of Four Mountains area, Western Gulf of Alaska
Location (in transit, location recorded on June 12 at 2PM (Alaska Time)): 56o 45.1227′ N, 155o 38.3353′ W

Data from 2PM (Alaska Time), June 12, 2023
Air Temperature: 7.72 oC
Water Temperature (mid-hull): 6.8oC
Wind Speed: 18.71 knots
Wind Direction: 201.27 degrees
Course Over Ground (COG): 207.53 degrees
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 11.46 knots

Date: June 13, 2023

Photo facing the front of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson while it was in dock in Kodiak, Alaska
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson as it docked in Kodiak, Alaska, on February 6, 2022

The journey of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson begins as we are underway from Kodiak Island and head out along the Aleutian Islands.

Every NOAA ship has a name – but who is behind the name? I dedicate this blog post to Oscar Dyson (both Oscar Dysons, actually!)

Here’s a short summary from the NOAA Office of Marine & Aviation Operations on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson:

Launched in 2003 and commissioned in 2005, the ship is named after Alaskan fisherman Oscar Dyson, a pioneer in Alaska’s fishing industry for half a century before his death in 1995. A well-known fishing activist and an industry advisor to government, Dyson was dedicated to improving the industry for the many Alaskans who make their living at sea. The ship is homeported in Kodiak, Alaska.

Peggy Dyson, wife of Oscar, christened the ship at its launch on October 17, 2003, in the VT Halter Marine shipyard in Moss Point, Mississippi. The first commanding officer was Commander Frank Wood.

Oscar Dyson (and Peggy!)

Oscar Dyson made an impact in Kodiak and across Alaska. I found a transcript of a Congressional Record read in 1995 less than two weeks after his passing with a detailed biography. There is a scholarship named for Oscar and his wife Peggy managed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a description I found online in 2022 that reads:

Oscar Dyson was a dedicated fisherman who turned his hobby into a business and his life’s work for 50 years. A Kodiak resident, Oscar had ample opportunity to partake in Alaska’s expansive fishing opportunities, but he also pioneered the crab fishing industry in Alaska. Oscar co-founded All Alaskan Seafoods (one of the largest seafood processing companies in the state) and built military bases during World War II …. The Oscar Dyson Memorial Scholarship was created in his honor and funded by numerous fishing and seafood companies within Alaska — a fitting homage to a man who did so much to develop Alaska’s marine economy. Oscar thought of himself — first, last and always — as a fisherman.

There is a dock in Kodiak named after Oscar Dyson with a marker to note his contributions and achievements (*photos taken by me as I spent some time exploring Kodiak in 2022)

  • A photo of a blue sign with orange lettering that reads: Oscar's Dock. All vessels much schedule dock use with Harbormaster. 486-8080 or 12 VHF Dock fees apply to all vessels. The sign is mounted in front of a chain link fence. We can see a snowy hill in the background,.
  • a large parking lot at Oscar's Dock; a pile of old snow in the middle of the parking lot; snowy hills and mountains in the background; a bright blue sky with many clouds
  • Oscar's Dock, Dedicated to the memory of a pioneer Kodiak fisherman. Oscar Dyson 1913-1995. Oscar Dyson's vision resulted in the construction of this dock. His civic leadership and insight also contributed to many other public harbor facilities including Fishermen's Terminal, the Container Cargo Facility, and Saint Herman Harbor with its breakwater. Each facility helped Kodiak become the State of Alaska's largest commercial fishing port.National Fisheries Institute Person of the Year - 1995.
  • another view of the parking lot with

And I’d like to give a shout-out to his wife Peggy, who made significant contributions of her own to the fishing community. Between 1965 and 2000, Peggy Dyson broadcast the marine weather from her house in Kodiak, twice a day over single sideband radio. She also reported sports scores and election results! The Kodiak Maritime Museum has a wonderful description of Peggy, including an audio clip of her voice, on their webpage, Peggy Dyson, Voice of the North Pacific. And NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson has a launch named Peggy D!

Photo of small boat Peggy D secured in its cradle on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
The launch Peggy D on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson plays a major role in collecting data used in the management of Alaska pollock, one of the world’s largest commercial fisheries. At 208-feet in length with a cruising speed of 12 knots and an endurance of 40 days at sea, Oscar Dyson can support 24 crew and 15 scientists (*see additional Specifications). The six onboard laboratory spaces include: a wet lab, dry lab, electronics/computer lab, bio lab, acoustics lab and hydrographics lab. Oscar Dyson sails primarily in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea.

In 2016, NOAA put together a Photo story: Virtually cruise aboard a NOAA ship for a fish trawl survey to show how scientists collect fish science data at sea, with all photos from Oscar Dyson.

I look forward to sharing more information about the ship and stories from my time at sea. But I don’t want to repeat the incredible work done by educators that sailed before me. Here are some excellent recent blog posts by other educators that have sailed on Oscar Dyson that describes everything from the facilities to the work involved on a fisheries survey:

Looking at the back of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
View of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson just as she docked in Kodiak, Alaska, on February 6, 2022

Old Ships, New Ships

The first NOAA ship I sailed on, Thomas Jeffersonstarted its life as US Naval Ship Littlehales. From January 1992 to January 2003, Littlehales recorded 85,018 hydrographic survey miles along the coast of Africa and in the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Littlehales ended its time with the Navy and then renamed Thomas Jefferson and officially entered the NOAA fleet on July 8, 2003 (*see About Thomas Jefferson which also explains why the ship was named after the former U.S. president).  

Oscar Dyson was new construction, the first of four planned 208-foot NOAA fisheries survey vessels.

In my first post, I mentioned how I’m reflecting upon this year being the 150+-year celebration of H.M.S. Challenger expedition. Launched in 1858, Challenger was a small warship with cannons assigned to coastal patrols and to support larger ships in the British naval fleet, not built for a science expedition. Modifications to Challenger were funded by the British government through the navy to include laboratories and accommodations for six civilian scientists to join the 250 British Royal Navy sailors and officers for the 3+ year journey at sea. I could not find information on why the navy chose “Challenger” as the name of the ship – but this ship’s name was the inspiration for the NASA space shuttle, the lunar module on the Apollo 17 mission, the scientific ocean drilling vessel Glomar Challenger, and even Sir Author Conan Doyle is said to have named his recurring character Professor Challenger after this ship. (*information from Macdougall, 2019)

Sketch of ship H.M.S. Challenger from Challenger Expedition Report, published in 1800's
Sketch of H.M.S. Challenger. Image in public domain, from Freshwater and Marine Image Bank

One Reply to “Laura Guertin: A shout-out to Oscar Dyson, the person and the ship, June 13, 2023”

  1. Enjoyed your article. While we never met Oscar, we were privileged to have his older brother, Charlie, as our neighbor here in Carolina, RI until his death at almost 100! Charlie said his brother in Alaska was a “big deal” and he wasn’t kidding.

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