USNS Michelson TAGS-23
Oceanographic Detachment/Unit Three

Ship Portraits


USNS Michelson was named in honor of CDR Albert A. Michelson, USNR.

President Ulysses S. Grant awarded Albert A. Michelson a special appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1869. During his four years as a midshipman at the Academy, Michelson excelled in optics, heat and climatology, and drawing. After his graduation in 1873 and two years at sea, he returned to the Academy to become an instructor in physics and chemistry, from 1875 to 1879. During this time in Annapolis he conducted his first experiments of the velocity of light, as part of a class demonstration in 1877.

Although Michelson resigned from the Navy in 1881 to pursue a career in physics, he remained dedicated to and involved with the Navy. From 1891 to 1919, Michelson designed for the Bureau of Ordnance optical range-finders and ear protectors, which were patented and later used for ear protection during gunfire. From 1895-1900, he served as commander of the First Battalion of the Illinois Naval Reserve, which he helped organize. During World War I, Michelson was the head of the scientific research committee at the University of Chicago and served as a lieutenant commander with the Bureau of Ordnance as a scientific consultant. Michelson enrolled in the United States Naval Reserve Force on June 28, 1918 for four years. In May 1919, Michelson was promoted to Commander in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve Class.

Albert Michelson was awarded the 1907 Nobel Prize in Physics for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and metrological investigations carried out with their aid.

Michelson Underway, November 1961

The magnetometer sensor is visible hanging from the winch frame at the stern. The photo is damaged at the starboard bow, obscuring the anchor and partially obscuring the ship's name, but is otherwise of outstanding quality.

Photo courtesy of John A. Hansen.

John comments: The photo is marked "negative No. AGS-23-344(L) 11-61" on the back. I have two 8 x 10 copies of the photo and the blemish that looks like sea spray on the starboard bow is present on both. Perhaps it was on the original negative.

Michelson Dead in the Water, Pre-1963

Lifeboat No.2 has been lowered; presumably this picture has been taken from the boat.

Photo courtesy of Chet Headley.

Chet comments: This photo was given to me when I went aboard Michelson in 1964. Note the absence of the BRN-3 antenna, so this photo was taken before the 1963-64 yard period.

Michelson Underway, Slow

Her No. 2 lifeboat has been launched, probably the platform from which this photo was taken. This is an early photo: no BRN-3 antenna and Star Tracker dome is present. Also, the signal flag locker is on the 04 Level above the port bridge wing.

Photo courtesy of Ace Hunter.

Michelson at Port Canaveral in 1964

Michelson called at Port Canaveral twice during the spring of 1964 while testing the newly installed SASS sonar in Bahamas waters. These photos were taken during the ship's three week visit from April 6-27.

Before Disney and before it became a home for cruise ships, Port Canaveral was a rather quiet place, serving commercial shipping and Atlantic Test Range vessels. There was also a small marina offering sport fishing charters.

Due to a shortage of dock space, Michelson had to move from one berth to another on both sides of the harbor. Commercial vessels had priority. We had to anchor offshore for one night when our pierside spot was pre-empted by the Tropicana orange juice ship.

Note the jackstaff flag is flying at half staff. This was in honor of General Douglas MacArthur, who died on April 5, 1964.

The ship returned to Port Canaveral on May 4 for ten days. Michelson also called at Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) and the Port of Palm Beach (Riviera Beach) later in the spring and summer of 1964.

Photos from Kodachrome slides purchased on Ebay by John Hansen.

Michelson in Drydock at Yokosuka
c. March 1967

Photo courtesy of Ace Hunter.

USNS Michelson in Port
At Yokosuka, Japan 1967

Photo courtesy of George Meier.

Michelson at Sunset
Anchored at Okinawa 1967

Photo courtesy of Ace Hunter.

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