The Log Book

The Log Book


April 26, 2022

Three new postings about SS Joliet Victory, Michelson's original incarnation. Selections from a WW II crew member's diary and a note from another of his shipmastes. From the National Archives, three pages of action reports of the ship at Iwo Jima in early 1945. Also a crew manifest from September 1953 when the ship was operated in Korean war service by Alaska Steamship Company.   


December 16, 2020 

The Decks Ran Red is the title of a 1958 movie featuring actors James Mason, Broderick Crawford and the singer, actress and dancer  Dorothy Dandridge. The film's unlikely plot involves a disgruntled seaman (Crawford's character) who attempts to organize a mutiny aboard a cargo ship, intending to kill the rest of the crew and sell the ship and cargo for salvage. Unlikely, yes, but it is supposed to have been based on a actual event.

A new article includes screen grabs showing the inner workings of a WWII Liberty ship in actual operation. The archaic three cylinder reciprocating steam engine is quite something to see.

Libertys were the predecessors of the more powerful, steam turbine driven Victory ships, of which Michelson, originally SS Joliet Victory was one of 550 + constructed in 1944-45.


September 25, 2020

Recently bought two color slides for sale on Ebay showing USNS Michelson. These were described as having been taken at a Florida port in 1964. The location appeared to be Port Canaveral. This is confirmed since the ship was there from April 6-27, 1964 and the jackstaff was at half staff in memorial to General Douglas MacArthur for 30 days beginning April 6.

The scanned images can be seen at Michelson at Port Canaveral.  Can furnish high resolution copies suitable for printing on request.


July 18, 2020 

Down in the Engine Room and Direct Current have been revised in view of new information from shipmate Phil Brooks. He informed me that the original two 300 kw DC turbo generators aboard Bowditch, Dutton and Michelson were replaced with 900 kw units, presumably when the ships were converted. Phil is familiar with the Michelson's electrical system, having acted as a substitute Chief Electrician for a month c. 1970.

He added additional details, including the presence of a 120/240 volt 300 kw turbo generator (or perhaps a motor-alternator set) in the engine room. This furnished power for domestic lighting and such.


April 9, 2020

The TAGS Ship website contains the collected contributions of dozens of persons associated with the Ocean Survey Program, carried out by the US Navy's Oceanographic Office.

Reminiscences, technical descriptions, photos and sea stories came from US Navy sailors, civilian oceanographers and merchant mariners associated with survey ships USNS Bowditch, USNS Dutton and USNS Michelson as well as USNS H. H. Hess, Michelson's successor.

Originally at, the TAGS website content (nearly 20,000 files, 2.4 gigabytes) is now located here at This "legacy site" was originally created to be seen in a PC web browser. It is not "dumbed down" for viewing on phones. 

The TAGS website continues to be an important historical document and memorial of these ships, crews and for website originator Earl Adams, who passed away in 2014.   

The Guest Log now accepts photos in entries. More than 200 TAGS veterans and other website guests have added comments to this message board.

December 21, 2019

Recently, scans of Sealift Magazine from 1962-66 have appeared on Google Books. This is the monthly house journal of what was them the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), now known as Military Sealift Command (MSC). There are several articles and photos concerning USNS Michelson, including those about the SS Grand crew rescue in January 1965.

MSC, the operator of US Navy's own fleet of auxiliary vessels, is sometimes confused with the Mediterranean Shipping Company (also called MSC), an Italian operator of container vessels and cruise ships. This other MSC got into the cruise business when they bought the passenger liner SS Monterey, once operated (1957-78) by Matson Navigation Company. Monterey was a converted C-4 freighter, SS Free State Mariner.

October 3, 2019

Posted on the website of the Naval Historical Foundation in 2014, a personal history details an engineering officer's life on a Texaco oil tanker.  

From Shipping out: My Experiences on a Commercial Tanker by Captain George Stewart, USN (Retired):

" ... my experiences while serving as an engineer aboard commercial tankers in 1961.  These articles provide perspective on the different engineering practices between the Navy and Merchant Marine in the post World War II-era. As will become apparent, there were some very sharp differences."

As a third assistant engineer,  Captain Stewart served aboard the WW II vintage T-2 tankers. Unusual at the time, these vessels were electrically propelled, as most ships are today. Steam turbines drove generators, which furnished ship's service electricity and DC excitation for a big alternator wired to the propulsion motors.

Many of the T-2 tankers were lengthened to become the supertankers of their day. Others remained in service as floating power plants, furnishing electricity for military bases overseas.  The US Navy used the T-2s as fleet oilers, fuel replenishment vessels (AO).

Interestingly, Captain Stewart reports that because of experience and training reasons the Navy operated tankers required five or six times as many crewmembers as a comparable merchant vessel. 

Here are links to the three part article Shipping out: My Experiences on a Commercial Tanker:

Part I        Part II        Part III

September 8, 2019

Michelson shipmate Walter Ray Maple ETC (ret.) passed away on June 13, 2019 at Colorado Springs. His obituary can be found here.

September 6, 2019

Revised the article about Lorac to include diagrams of Lorac A switched mode operation. Used in tactical field deployable situations, this flavor of the Lorac radio navigator utilized three land based transmitters, doing without with the fixed reference station transmitter. 

January 31, 2019

Added additional material to the articles about Loran C and Lorac. 

Back issues of the journal of the Internationl Hydrographic Institute have quite a few published papers about Loran and Lorac. Added links to two of these that explain the differences between Lorac A and Lorac B, the "B" version (with four transmitters) being better suited for hydrographic surveys.

Found a 1963 advertisement for Sperry Loran C receivers. It appears that they were trying to sell the WPN-3A as a commercial product as well as supplying these electromechanical monsters to the Navy.

January 1, 2019

A very personal account of experiences as a member of the Navy detachment aboard USNS Michelson during 1965-66 can be found here. This series of reminicences written by Jonah McLeod were originally published during 2005 at (now defunct). These were later edited and republished at the website. They are again published here for non commercial historical and archival purposes.

April 11, 2018

A brief history of multibeam sonar can be found here. The General Instruments SASS (Sonar Array Sounding System) was first deployed on a survey ship in early 1964 aboard USNS Michelson following test and evalutation aboard USS Compass Island (AG-153).

March 19, 2018

A former Michelson sailor asked about the ball cap pictured in The Michelson Mission article. It's made in the USA, custom embroidered with the ship's name and hull number in gold. The fairly accurate ship's profile is in silver gray. The supplier delivered it in three days for $40. While Take a Trip on a Survey Ship is a non-commercial web site (no ads, no pop-ups, nobody trying to sell stuff) I feel that it's fair to recognize the folks for delivering a pretty fine product. The cap is suitable attire for trips to the VA clinic and at the cafe where the old military veterans hang out, or maybe even for a ship's reunion!

January 4, 2018

Updated the article on Lorac. Included link to a system description of the radio navaid as used aboard Michelson in the Bahamas during 1964. The trade name Lorac, once meaning long range accuracy is now being used for a brand of cosmetics!  


December 28, 2017

Added a few more photos to the Michelson Photo Gallery.

Have been trying to improve some of the graphics, correct content and track down broken links. Today I found that has taken down their rootsweb freepages site, which contained Carl Friberg's web pages, to which this site had hyperlinks. He was a deck officer and master aboard many Army Transport/MSTS/MSC ships over the years, including USNS Michelson. Friberg's pages have not been updated in 8-10 years, so perhaps they were regarded as "legacy material". In response to this I'm going to try bringing potentially vulnerable legacy stuff in-house just in case more links disappear.  

Some of Carl Friberg's memories of the MSTS ships and of Captain Wilhelm Bondeson, Michelson's master (1961-63) can be seen here.

I welcome suggestions, comments, contributions and photos! Email me at


August 3, 2017

Much thanks to Doug Hanahan for sharing his copies of Atlantic Voyageur. Doug has taken good care of these 1962-63 ship's newspapers for over 50 years! Marty Rombach scanned the well preserved periodicals, as originally printed on photo paper aboard ship. They are a fascinating documentation of  Michelson's mission, personnel changes, promotions and spare time activities. The October '62 edition has a two pages about Belfast, the ship's main port of call beginning in May of  that year. 

Thirteen issues of Atlantic Voyageur can be seen here.


August 3, 2017

Added a Michelson Photo Gallery and a page of pictures taken  of the ship's 1964 passage through the Panama Canal. Thanks to Chet Headley for the use of his photos. 


July 20, 2017

E. E. Emmons, Electronics Officer (EMO) of Oceanographic Detachment Three during 1962-63 passed away on August 3, 2013.  His obituary can be found here and here

Henry M. Kargel was the detachment storekeeper during 1963-64. He was nicknamed "Klutch Kargo" by his shipmates. His obit can be found here.


May 11, 2017

An obituary for Ken Ditmore, an officer in Oceanographic Detachment Three during 1964, can be found here.


Apr 19, 2017

Photos of the ship in drydock at Southhampton ('62) and of Michelson sailors in Barcelona ('63) and Bayonne ('64) have been added, all furnished by Marty Rombach. Check out the priceless group shot taken at the infamous Cosmos Bar on Barcelona's Ramblas!


Feb 27, 2017

For those who can remember "Dusty" the bosun aboard Michelson in 1962-63 there are some photos here and also here.

In 1974 Odin ("Dusty") Langva was second mate aboard Mobil Arctic, an US flagged oil tanker.


Feb 27, 2017

Am really kind of pleased to report that around the Christmas holiday I heard from not less than five USNS Michelson shipmates from the 1962-64 era. Shared a few maritime memories and reminiscences of shipmates from long ago by phone and email.

So, there are still some of us hanging on, no longer going to sea, but still alive and kicking.