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New Stennis-based Vessel Has Special Namesake


ML-2001 Aug. 17, 2020

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – Fleet Survey Team (FST) launched a new Hydrographic Survey Vessel (HSV), the Norma May, which went underway the first time Aug. 6 on the Pearl River for testing and training.

“The Norma May incorporates numerous design improvements over previous FST HSVs, a result of more than a decade of lessons learned operating similar vessels. She will play a vital role in performing safety of navigation surveys to support fleet mobility requirements, ensuring our Navy’s ability to safely navigate harbors around the globe,” said FST Commanding Officer Cmdr. Jonathan Savage.

This HSV is dedicated to Norma May Jeffries (1936-2019) the wife of Michael Jeffries, who served as technical director of FST from 2006 to 2015 and who championed the HSV program for FST during his tenure. Norma was a special member of the FST family. Known affectionately as “Sparky” by Michael during their 38 years of marriage, she was loved by all who knew and met her.

“Norma was a kind and gentle person, coupled with an infectious cheerful attitude. Her love and kindness to others was never-ending,” said FST Technical Director Calvin Martin.

The HSV Norma May waits at the pier at Stennis Space Center after its first launch

Norma was a constant fixture at all FST command events, many of which the Jeffries hosted in their Bay St. Louis, Miss., home. Norma would embrace any command member in need of a little nurturing or who just simply wanted to talk. The living room couch was her welcome mat for members to hear stories about her adventures, laugh along with her and enjoy her genuine love for life.

The Norma May makes its first underway in the canal at Stennis Space Center on Aug. 6.

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Norma became a professional dancer at a young age, performing all over Europe and the Middle East, including Lebanon, Egypt, Greece and Italy. She was one of Jamaica's first models, and went on to perform in several movies with Ingrid Bergman, Rod Taylor and James Coburn.

Norma May Jeffries in Jamaica in 1980s and with her husband Michael at the Navy Ball in 2010

The Norma May was custom built for FST by Workskiff in Seattle to meet operational requirements like mounting hydrographic survey equipment. It includes a multibeam echo sounder and a side scan sonar, along with all the computer systems required to collect hydrographic data that meet the International Hydrography Organization charting standards. The size of the HSV allows it to fit inside a C-130 aircraft for transport, enabling FST to conduct hydrographic surveys around the world.

FST is a rapid-response team with the capabilities to conduct quick-turnaround hydrographic surveys anywhere in the world. These surveys and related environmental assessments ensure safe and effective maritime access to near-shore waters for U.S. and joint forces, and for humanitarian relief efforts. Comprised of approximately 65 military and civilian members, FST is subordinate command of the Naval Oceanographic Office located at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

U.S. Navy commands at Stennis Space Center contribute approximately $207 million to the region within a 50 mile radius of the center.


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