THE NOAA HYDROGRAPHIC OFFICER WILLIAM WINNER is the field operations officer on the 208-foot Thomas Jefferson, one of NOAA’s four hydrographic survey ships. He manages its day-to-day operations, which survey the coast from Texas to Maine, supplying the data that NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey uses to update the nation’s nautical charts. “A lot of my work is making sure that the data collected is of high quality,” he says. “But acquisi- tion of depth measurements and other data is only the first step to updating the charts. After we acquire the data, we process it and then begin the process of determining any changes that will be made to the charts.” Winner’s path to NOAA wasn’t exactly obvious. After getting his M.A. in environmental science with an emphasis on Geographic Information Systems (mapping software), he
worked as an adjunct professor at a small private university in Indiana, but wanted a little
more excitement and to serve in the public sector.
“I found this career with the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and it really provides
everything I wanted in a job. I liked the idea of being out to sea for a couple of years at a
time, and then changing jobs and moving to shore for a few years. I always had a passion
for the ocean, and it also meant a lot to me that the NOAA Corps’ heritage is closely tied to
America’s oldest scientific and technical agency, the U.S. Coast Survey, which was organized
after Thomas Jefferson asked for a survey of the coast in 1807.”
Typically, the Thomas Jefferson is out to sea between 120 and 220 days each year. “When
we’re sailing, we’re generally out for 12 days at a time. Personally, I am in the midst of my
second sea assignment and this is my fourth year being out to sea.” — A.D.
For William Winner’s full interview
and info on what NOAA’s hydrographic ships do, see this story at
colder by the water, but really it didn’t matter because the place was solid ice.” It was
so cold that minutes after the breaker boat
cleared a path for Musselman’s ship, their
track would refreeze behind them. “We still
had to work in those conditions, hooking
up hoses and getting all the fuel pumped
ashore so the station could survive their
own winter, where I’m told conditions are
even worse than what we saw!” he says.
“To say the least, I was grateful for my
warm bibs and parka jacket!” — A.D.
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