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Recent Items

September 12, 2013: Meet a researcher! Karen Kohanowich

Karen Kohanowich joined NOAA's Undersea Research Program in 2005, and is now the Acting Director of NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Ms. Kohanowich started her career in the Navy as a diver and oceanographer. She has over six and half years of sea time, and piloted the Pisces IV submersible. Her career has taken her across the world from Japan to Canada. Stationed in Washington D.C. since 1997, she was the NOAA Liaison for the Navy in 2000-2001, and retired from a position as advisor to the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Navy for Environment.

In 2011, Ms. Kohanowich started her PhD program at George Mason University under the sponsorship of NOAA Research. Her research interests include the history of undersea research, factors of successful ocean programs, and the history and use of manned and unmanned undersea technology. Karen is passionate about learning from historical marine research and planning documents, and applying the history as a foundation for future research and action. She has found that university libraries and catalogs offer great research starting points, but the NOAA Library's specialized collection allows her to find information that is specifically relevant to her unique research goals. NOAA's Library collection "offers a huge opportunity for preserving and rediscovering the Nation's heritage of ocean research and planning." Karen has worked closely with NOAA Librarians and Staff to access information specific to her research needs. While the Internet offers a great, accessible quick reference or starting point, Karen notes that the NOAA Library collection and staff offer unique reference resources to support her research at NOAA: "You can't find all of this through Google. We're often surprised that not everything is scanned and available at the click of a mouse, but some of the most important references remain on the shelves. I've gained a new appreciation for real people in a real library!"

For reference assistance with your research, contact the NOAA Central Library at: library.reference@noaa.gov.

August 29, 2013: Shipwreck Discovered by a Library! Interview with Skip Theberge, NOAA Central Library, about the legwork behind solving the whereabouts of the Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker

Recently the United States Coast Survey Steamer ROBERT J. WALKER was found off the coast of New Jersey. It sank after colliding with a heavily laden schooner on the morning of June 21, 1860. Besides a few short sentences in the 1860 report of the United States Coast Survey, no official notice or commemoration of this disaster or of the twenty-one men who lost their lives has ever been made until this year. This was the single largest loss of life in the history of NOAA and its ancestor agencies. Following is the story of how the ROBERT J. WALKER was found and of the NOAA Central Library's role in this endeavor. The following is an interview with Albert "Skip" Theberge of the Library who provided much of the impetus for discovering this historic vessel and helping NOAA properly commemorate and memorialize the ship and its crew.

How did you discover the story of the ROBERT J. WALKER?

In the early to mid-1990's I was an active-duty NOAA Corps officer on staff to the Director of NOAA Corps, Rear Admiral Sig Petersen. For a variety of reasons, I was very heavily involved with the history of NOAA Corps and the history of its predecessor agency, the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. Accordingly, Admiral Petersen saw the value of such history and tasked me with writing a history of NOAA Corps and saw that I had adequate time to conduct research. The premier place to conduct research into elements of NOAA's history is the NOAA Central Library. In those days, the Library was located in the Washington Science Center on Executive Boulevard in Rockville. I spent many hours systematically mining information from the Annual Reports of the Coast and Geodetic Survey to build the framework for this history. When perusing the Annual Report for 1860, I came across a surprising statement on page 1 in which Alexander Dallas Bache said the following: "The progress of the work has been, taking all its branches together, greater than during the year before, but the loss of one of our best steamers by collision at sea has been a sad drawback to the general prosperity of the work." Reading further, on page 10, the name of the WALKER was mentioned, and then finally on page 44, I was shocked to discover that twenty men (subsequently discovered to be twenty-one) died in this tragedy. (See: http://www.lib.noaa.gov/noaainfo/heritage/coastsurveyvol1/BACHE5.html#COLLISION). Because of this, I went to the National Archives to search out any correspondence that I could find on the WALKER and the events of June 21, 1860. These were incorporated into my book The Coast Survey 1807-1867 in which the above section is found. Without the Library protecting NOAA's heritage and assuring that our history is protected, this story never would have come to light.

Why did you pursue NOAA searching for this wreck and commemorating the lost crewmen?

Basically, it struck me that an injustice had been done to these men. Having been a ship's officer involved primarily in coastal and offshore surveys during my NOAA Corps career, I could identify with the crew of the WALKER. These were men anticipating a homecoming after a long deployment to the Gulf of Mexico. They were looking forward to seeing family and friends, while wives and children were anticipating a happy arrival in New York the following day. This was all cut tragically short. On a personal level, I felt a kinship with these men and knew that, but for luck, basically any sailor could meet such a fate. As a historian, I felt that they had been overlooked by history. There was no official inquiry by the Coast Survey or any other government entity and their names were not even listed in any Coast Survey official publication that I have ever found.

How and why did the actual discovery of the WALKER occur this year?

For many years I attempted to interest various elements of NOAA in finding the WALKER. The first traction in this occurred while Craig McLean was head of Ocean Exploration and a young NOAA Corps officer, Jeremy Weirich, was attached to that group as a marine archaeologist. In 2003, Jeremy developed a search pattern for the WALKER based on a logical position for the vessel as ascertained from the existing record. Unfortunately, no ship time was available. The next major step leading to the discovery was the establishment of a Maritime Heritage Program (MHP) under the auspices of the National Marine Sanctuary Program. Because of interactions with Cheryl Oliver of the Preserve America program and Dan Basta, head of the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, I soon met the new head of the MHP, Tim Runyan from the East Carolina University Marine Archaeology Department. Tim's interest was sparked but ship time was not available. However, at a conference in 2010, I met one of his students, Joyce Steinmetz, who had been studying shipwrecks on the New Jersey Coast as related to fisherman net hangs. For much of her information, she relied on New Jersey sport wreck divers information and she had coordinates of a number of likely targets. There was a flurry of communications at that point but still nothing substantive occurred. Following Tim's return to East Carolina and the appointment of Jim Delgado as head of the MHP, the ball got rolling again. However, a chance meeting in late March of 2013 is what really made the discovery and identification of the shipwreck possible. Dawn Forsythe, Communications Specialist with the OCS, asked me to attend a meeting to discuss possible themes for World Hydrography Day which was to occur on June 21st. At the end of the meeting at which WALKER had not been discussed, Dawn happened to mention that the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON was working in close proximity to what I knew to be the vicinity of the WALKER shipwreck and I suggested that maybe it could spend a day or two searching for it. When I mentioned that the WALKER also sank on June 21, 1860, Dawn's eyes lit up and she basically said "That's it!" She then suggested a memorial service which occurred and also took it upon herself to speak with Rear Admiral Gerd Glang ( a strong supporter of NOAA History and Heritage) , head of OCS and the U.S. National Hydrographer, about visiting the area of the shipwreck and conducting a search. She also contacted Joyce Steinmetz, Tim Runyan, and Jim Delgado with her idea. All concurred. From my point of view the planets had aligned. Planning for the THOMAS JEFFERSON to be on site on the 21st fell to OCS. Vitad Pradith, a multi-beam and sidescan expert with OCS, volunteered to be technical representative for the project. Serendipitously, the National Marine Sanctuaries vessel SRVX was in the same general area working on a Hurricane Sandy related project and was scheduled as the NOAA dive boat for inspection of any likely targets. Jim Delgado and Dan Basta assembled a superb team of archaeological divers for this mini-expedition. The JEFFERSON conducted surveys on the primary target supplied by Joyce Steinmetz on the 21st and ensonified a wreck with both multi-beam and sidescan systems. The following day, the dive team on SRVX went down and within two hours had unambiguously identified the shipwreck as the WALKER. Thus, 153 years later, the final resting place of the WALKER was positively identified.

What does the discovery of the WALKER mean to NOAA as an organization?

This is strictly personal opinion, but I think what it means is that NOAA as a whole recognizes its heritage and realizes that much of what it does occurs by standing on the shoulders of those who went before. I think it means that NOAA as a whole is an organization that will do its best to make right past oversights and injustices. I think it means that we as an organization recognize the humanity and importance of each every individual. In finding the WALKER, NOAA can look to itself and say "We did the right thing" and take just pride in doing so.

What does the discovery of the WALKER mean to you personally?

I have spent nearly 45 years working for NOAA and I think when it comes time to retire that I can say that I worked for an organization that takes care of its own. To paraphrase a speech by Dwight Eisenhower on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, it means that I have worked for an organization that has done its duty.

August 14, 2013: Meet a researcher! Igor Smolyar

Dr. Igor Smolyar of NOAA's National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) has been working closely with NOAA Central Library staff for the past 15 years to find and extract hydrographic and oceanographic data to help develop atlases for the International Ocean Atlas and Information Series, as well as accompanying databases available through NODC. This research is used regularly for peer-reviewed articles, teaching, and in lab and field work. A native of Russia who spent much of his early career working above the Arctic Circle, Dr. Smolyar looks for primary data from research expeditions in the Arctic Ocean. Before joining NOAA, he conducted research utilizing New York Public Library resources to find data from Arctic research expeditions. His research includes library materials dating back to the 19th century from American, Russian, Polish, Norwegian, and other explorations. These data include deep sea observations and hydrological data such as ocean salinity, oxygen, and temperature. He has used not only books from NOAA Central Library's shelves, but historical charts, rare books, and items available through Interlibrary Loan. His goal is make data available publicly at no cost and with no restrictions.

You can access both the International Ocean Atlas and Information Series and the World Ocean Database, free and unrestricted, through NODC at: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/indprod.html

August 7, 2013: Meet a researcher! David Roth

Since 2009, David Roth of the National Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), Weather Prediction Center, has regularly visited NOAA Central Library to digitally scan microfilm copies of weather analyses dating back to the 1940s. The scanned microfilm materials include U.S. Surface Analyses from 1942 to 1954, the Northern Hemisphere Surface Analyses (1954 to 1995), Tropical Strip Maps (1968 to 1981), and the North American Surface Analyses (1954 to 1995). Together, these maps show a history of weather research in the U.S. The surface maps were originally drawn by the National Weather Analysis Center beginning the 1942. By 1958, the center was folded into the National Meteorological Center. After NCEP's creation in 1995, analyses were drawn by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, renamed the Weather Prediction Center in March 2013. The project has shown Mr. Roth and his colleagues the ongoing growth of weather study in the U.S., as well as NOAA's roots and heritage.

The data in these analyses supports several projects throughout NCEP including a tropical cyclone rainfall analog program for active tropical weather systems. Additionally, the conversion of these microfilm to an electronic format has created an electronic archive of surface analyses and eliminated the paper map archive that needed to be stored at the agency. The scanning project also helps other agencies throughout NOAA. Mr. Roth has scanned Mariners Weather Log series (pre-1998) to help develop an extratropical cyclone database at the Weather Prediction Center, while scanned hurricane data from the NOAA Central Library's M collection supports the National Hurricane Center's Atlantic hurricane reanalysis project.

Mr. Roth has used the NOAA Central Library to receive and scan microfilm from libraries across the East Coast, including the University of Virginia, North Carolina State University and Dr. Lance Bosart's personal collection at the SUNY-Albany University. Some materials, such as a book of French North Atlantic Maps from 1864, were only available through the NOAA Central Library. Mr. Roth will continue utilizing the Central Library's collection to scan German and Japanese map series. He will also regularly search the NOAA Central Library collection for more sources of surface analyses to add to the NCEP archive.

June, 2010: Librarians, Anna Fiolek, Linda Pikula, and Brian Voss, in collaboration with members of the NOAA Libraries' Staff, have developed a document entitled: Resources on Oil Spills, Response, and Restoration: a Selected Bibliography (pdf) (Microsoft Word version). This document, also called Oil Spills Bibliography, has been prepared as an aid for those seeking information concerning the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and information on previous spills and associated remedial actions. Various media products (web, video, printed and online documents) have been selected from resources available via the online NOAA Library and Information Network Catalog (NOAALINC). Many of the resources included have been produced by NOAA offices and programs. The content of the Bibliography includes information sources concerned both with the harmful effects of oil and chemical spills to marine habitats and their associated living marine resources and with the cultural and economic impacts caused by such spills.

April 9, 2010: Librarian Anna Fiolek in collaboration with Digital Collection Librarian, Diana Abney, and Head of Library Reference Service Skip Theberge, developed the anniversary home page entitled: Resources on TIROS and Satellite Meteorology. The home page has been prepared to mark and support the Agency's and NOAA Central Library (NCL) celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the launch of TIROS I, first meteorological satellite, in April 1, 1960. It displays the NCL network's unique online resources on TIROS satellites and research in satellite meteorology, including over 284 full-text documents in PDF format, over 530 low and high resolution photos, and selection of related videos in MOV and MP4 formats. The scanned documents are also available in the TIROS Bibliography online: Selected Publications on TIROS Satellites and Satellite Meteorology Available from the NOAA Central Library Network.

March 26, 2010: Mr. Thomas Jackson of the NOAA Office of Coast Survey donated the model that he had personally hand-crafted of the Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship BLAKE. This beautiful model was displayed at a number of NOAA Heritage Week displays but remained in the possession of Mr. Jackson. As he is soon retiring, he graciously donated this model to the Library. The BLAKE is one of the most famous of Nineteenth Century oceanographic research vessels and is considered to be the most innovative of all oceanographic vessels of that era. A second item of great historical significance was the donation to the NOAA Library Rare Book Room of the original documents forging the World Meteorological Organization following WWII. This document was found in a safe residing in the NWS Office of International Affairs and brought to the Library by Dr. William Bolhofer of that office. Among other features of this document is an original signature of then Secretary of State General George C. Marshall, famous for development of the Marshall Plan following WW II. And last but not least, after five years as part of a NOAA traveling exhibit, a model of TIROS I and a beautiful pewter model of TIROS-N were returned to the NOAA Central Library by Cheryl Oliver of the NOAA Preserve America Initiative. They are once again on display in the Library.

March 19, 2010: The Pacific Islands Climate Change Virtual Library, a new online public library with climate and coastal management information specific to the Pacific Islands, will go live the week of March 29. The interactive site was designed to help coastal managers incorporate climate information and tools into their decision making and improve the resilience of their communities to climate change impacts. The library includes resources on how to map and model climate impacts, assess vulnerability, and adapt to climate variability and change in the Pacific region. The site was developed by the NOAA Central Library, NOS Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, NOS Coastal Services Center, and NOS Pacific Services Center, in cooperation with the National Oceanographic Data Center, Pacific Climate Information System, coastal managers in American Samoa and Samoa, University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and other partners in the Pacific Islands, and was supported by a grant from the National Ocean Service International Coordinating Council.

March 12, 2010: More than 1,000 NOAA- related analog VHS and Betacam SP video tapes have been converted to DVD, AVI, MOV, and MP4 - user friendly formats. Currently, some of the selected videos are available online via NOAALINC, the library's online catalog. The converted video collection includes several titles related to NOAA's past discussion on global climatic changes, as well as to the upcoming 50th Anniversary of TIROS-I, the first meteorological satellite, launched on April1, 1960. The historic launch can be viewed online via the Library's metadata. This project is supported by the NOAA Climate Data Modernization Program (CDMP).

March 5, 2010: NOAA librarians selected, cataloged, preserved, and digitized over 40 NOAA historical, 16 mm films and convert them to various digital formats, including HD D5 tapes, DVD, AVI, and MOV and MP4 for Web-friendly access. Most of the films are from the early 1940s through the late 1960s, covering early pre-NOAA times, including historic U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Army activities. To view most of these films online search our Library Catalog on: "NOAA historical film transfer."

February 3, 2010: The NOAA Central Library Video Lab is a new service offered by the NOAA Central Library. The Video Lab is available to all NOAA scientists for their business related media work, including digital video viewing, editing, converting, and duplicating. Contact Anna Fiolek for more information.

  Last modified:    Thu, 12-Sep-2013 15:09 UTC Library.Reference@noaa.gov
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