Coral Banks
Oct. 18, 2002


By: Rachel McEvers, Project Oceanica

Some of you might be wondering why we're aboard a NASA vessel. Don't they do "space stuff"?

Fig. (Bren Wade, First Officer and acting Master of the Vessel of M/V Liberty Star, standing next to the space shuttle’s external tank aboard the Barge Pegasus.)

Well, we interviewed Captain Joe Chaput about NASA's involvement in our project. As most of you know NASA is the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. So what are they doing mapping coral reefs?! Captain Chaput took the initiative to encourage a high level agreement between NASA and NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) to combine their resources for bigger and better projects. He believes that the government's public assets should be better utilized to gather knowledge and achieve goals that benefit everyone. (We agree!). Although NASA has already done some work with the weather division of NOAA, this is one of the first times that NASA, NOAA and private and public organizations have all teamed up for one big project. The benefit to NASA in getting involved in this type of research is that their immediate group becomes more aware of the ocean environment in which they live and work, as well as getting NASA a big thumbs up from the public for showing they care about our oceans and want to help. Just think how much we can accomplish if all our government organizations thought this way!

Fig. (Captain Joe Chaput of the United Space Alliance (USA) discussing the use of the Diver Operated Plug (DOP) that is used to pump water out of the recovered shuttle booster.)

Since we already had Captain Chaput cornered, we decided to feature his job as Ship's Captain as the career interview of the day. Captain Chaput has always known he wanted to work around water. He attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy and got a Bachelor's degree in nautical science. Then he went on to get an MBA at Webster. Originally he wanted to sail on the Great Lakes but once he got a taste of life on the salty sea he was hooked. At one time he worked for the Military Sea Lift Command and has been a ship's captain for 11 years.

His favorite part of the job is the maritime atmosphere. Just being around ships and water is enough to make him love it. He had a hard time deciding what he likes least about it but finally decided it was the under utilization of government assets to benefit the public.

Fig. (Captain Joe Chaput at the helm of M/V Liberty Star doing what he loves most.)

His duties include piloting the ship, which requires navigating and planning. He does the scheduling, proposes budgets for operations and helps with the maintenance of the ship when required. He is basically in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly, the crew is taken care of and the ship stays in tip-top order.

When asked the infamous "which fish would you be?" he decided to expand it to marine mammals. He said he would be an Atlantic Bottle-Nosed Dolphin because they always look like they're having a good time.


Ph. 843-953-7263
Project Oceanica
Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math
College of Charleston
Charleston, SC 29424
Fax 843-953-7850