The Founding Fathers, and a brief history to 1976

Shoran - was developed as a SHOrt RANge bombing and navigation system for the USAF by RCA (Radio Corporation of America). Last used operationally in this capacity during the Korean conflict.

Some of the brief résumé's below are mainly from the obituaries columns of the New Orleans press.

Robert L Suggs was a founder of International Offshore Navigation Inc, and served as president. He also was instrumental in the founding of 

Offshore Raydist Inc, and served as its president, too. He was also co-founder of Petroleum Helicopters Inc. He holds a bachelors degree from Texas A & M University, and a masters degree from California Institute of Technology. He was the recipient of the Kossler Award from the American Helicopter Society - the highest honor awarded by that Society - and served as president of the Helicopter Association of America.


Maurice M Bayon, co-founder of ONI and former chairman of Petroleum Helicopters Inc, an operator of commercial helicopters. 
A native Louisianan, Maurice graduated from Tulane University Law School and commanded a ground unit providing support to elements of the Army Air Forces in World War II. He won the Bronze Star.
In 1946, he co-founded Offshore Navigation Inc, a radio navigation business supporting oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1949, he and Robert L Suggs contracted to provide helicopter services to Shell Oil and then founded Petroleum Helicopters Inc, in the same year. The company began with three helicopters, grew quickly and operated more than 400 helicopters for a time, but encountered some difficulties in the 1980's. Mr Bayon retired from both companies in 1990.


Joseph De Lerno, a retired businessman and former President and CEO of Offshore Navigation, Inc., died December 23, 2008. He was 84. Mr. De Lerno was a lifelong resident of New Orleans. He served in the U. S. Navy in World War II, and was commissioned in the U. S. Air Force Reserve in 1950, where he retired with the rank of Major. He was a graduate of Tulane University's School of Engineering. Mr. De Lerno was a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier Church, where he was Chairman of the Board of Religious Education in 1976 and President of the School Board in 1982. He was the YMCA Outstanding Tutor of the year in 1992 and 1993. He served on the Board of YMCA's Operation Mainstream and on the Board of Strive, Inc., where he was Treasurer. In 1995-1996, he was the President of the New Orleans Chapter of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. Mr. De Lerno was honored by the St. Elizabeth's Guild in 1999 as a Volunteer Activist, and received the Spirit of '76 award from Freedoms Foundation the same year. He was a Docent for the National D-Day Museum from its opening in 2000 until 2005. 

(Joe was ONI's long term Vice President in charge of the Eastern Hemisphere, and later, after George Roussel resigned, its President. Joe resigned in mid 1991.)


Since 1946, ONI, worked for every major oil & exploration company in the world. Significant milestones are presented briefly in the following paragraphs.

The first office was in the Hibernia Bank building, New Orleans. The first shop was in a private garage on Joseph Street. Later in 1946, ONI moved to its first home at 3503 Fern Street, in the Garden District of New Orleans. 

Growing pains caused by expansion necessitated an addition, resulting in the leasing of several other properties.

 In October, 1965, ONI moved to 5728 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, New Orleans. There were modifications and additions to that building over the years.

3503 Fern Street, in the New 

Orleans Garden District

5728 Jefferson Highway

A familiar sight to many 

employees passing through 

New Orleans.


Early base station, it says! Seems they went downhill from here, apart from the mast, this 

one apparently being of plywood construction



The first Shoran base stations were installed at Grand Isle and Leeville, Louisiana, for the first clients: the California Company (later, Chevron Oil Co) in July, and Continental Oil Company in October 1946. Personnel from that first year were, Bob Suggs (whose inspiration it all was), Maurice Bayon, John Hurley, George Roussel, Joe DeLerno Jr, John Coffman, Fred Wood, Louis Conner, Jim Castell, Les Schroeder and Ray Landry.

A subsidiary company, Overseas Navigation Inc, was formed in the latter part of 1946 to provide Shoran services for a nine month aerial magnetometer survey of the Bahamas, starting in March, 1947. For that operation, ONI started acquisition of a fleet of 85 and 110 foot vessels that it was to operate for several years.

Baker Bamsu

ONI owned and operated vessel 

that participated in the Bahamas 

aerial magnetometer survey

New York Ltd

First Shoran survey vessel to operate in the Gulf of Mexico for seismic exploration. It was also the training ship for Mobile Operators


With 65ft masts, this was one of the

 first Mobil base stations. It was lost 

to a hurricane in 1947

The following are slightly edited versions of articles which ran in the Oil & Gas Journal during the 1946/47 era, relating to the Search for oil and mineral deposits around the Bahamas. This has to be the very beginnings of ONI, the initials of which, at the time, stood for Overseas Navigation Inc.

The material was supplied by Dr Thomas J Carter, whose father Luke, worked with ONI at the time, and Doug Morrison, ex Aero Service, and who is researching the history of International Aero Services Corporation.

Being scans of scans from original newsprint, some of the photo reproduction is of very low quality, although the pictures are of some significance to the ONI story. Interesting to see photos of a young Jim Strayhorn - with whom I worked in Spain in 1964 - Bob Suggs, and Maurice Bayon.

Perhaps you can recognize others in some of the pictures.


A method of high-precision position finding in aerial navigation and mapping

Developed during the war and used for determining a plane's position with reference io a given ground point on blind bombing missions, Shoran is arousing considerable interest among oil men as to its possible applications to aerial geological observation, surveying, and mapping work in inaccessible terrain. This is a digest of a paper first presented before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers at New York, and later discussed before the Society of Exploration Geo-physicists at Chicago and the San Antonio meeting of the A.I.E.E.

Although Shoran (Army Radar AN/APN-3 and AN/CPN-2) is a contraction of the words >Short= and >Range' it has given satisfactory performance to distances of 250 miles. It is used for high-precision position finding in aerial navigation. The original research work was started, in the fall of 1938 by Radio Corp of America (RCA), which, later turned it over to the military. It finally came into its own as a war weapon in December 1944 in Italy. The extreme accuracy of distance determination attracted the attention of the army geodetic and mapping groups. Tests in Florida (in ideal conditions!) proved that the probable error of distance measurement by this method was something less than 50 ft out to the-limit of its range (about 250 miles). As a result of the interest shown, the equipment is being used today for establishing control points with '"first order survey accuracy" at very great distances. (Note - "First Order Survey Accuracy" may be roughly defined as accurate to approximately 1 ft in 5 miles)

Shoran as related to the BAHAMAS project

For this work a ground station is established at each point to be located and a plane flown back and forth across the line between any two such points. The average minimum sum of the distances between the plane and each, ground station, as indicated by a photographic recorder for each line crossing, gives the true distance between the two points.

The comparative simplicity of surveying a line from, say, Chicago to Kansas City to Amarillo in only two jumps can be imagined. For a survey of that route, three ground stations would be used, one at each, of the three cities, and. 10 or 20 flights back and forth across the approximate center of each line would be required.

Except for one consideration, it would be unnecessary for any individual to set foot upon the intervening terrain. For first order accuracy survey work, to allow for the effect of climatic conditions on propagation velocity and on the refraction of the radio waves between plane and ground, sounding balloon or other types of atmospheric determinations along the path are necessary.

Nevertheless, the simplicity and rapidity with which unmapped portions of the earth can be brought into survey control with equipment of this type is little short of amazing.

Using the two-distance "fix" method used by Shoran to locate a position in flight, the airplane equipment transmits a series of short pulses of radio frequency energy to each of a pair of ground stations. These in turn immediately retransmit the received signals back to the plane, where the round-trip time is measured in terms of distance.

In operation the plane flies in either direction on an arc around one of the ground stations. The radius of the arc is equal to the station-to-target distance. Since either ground station may be used as the center of the flight path, four approach headings toward a target are possible.

With normal station-to-target distances, the curvature of the target-run path is relatively slight. A refined type of pilot direction indicator meter makes it possible to keep the plane on its arc path with deviations less than the span of the plane wings.

If the geographic locations of the ground stations, as well as those of all possible targets are accurately known, the geodetic problems connected with Shoran operations are relatively simple of solution. When the exact locations of targets are not known, Shoran reconnaissance photography will reveal their coordinates.

The ruggedness and relative simplicity of operation of a Shoran system, together with the freedom from equipment failures In combat use, are all remarkable in view of the extreme precision of the results obtained.

The Aircraft Equipment: The monitor - timing and indicating device - is the most vital part of the system. This unit permits regulation of the timing of the transmitted pulses in such manner that the signal returned, by re-transmission from the ground arrives back at the plane receiver and makes its appearance on the cathode-ray screen coincidentally with the fixed, or so-called to marker indication. The adjustment necessary to effect this coincidence is calibrated in miles and decimal portions, and the mileage indications are read from the dial settings.

The pulse-timing function is duplicated in the indicator unit to allow for simultaneous distance measurements from two ground stations. At the bottom are two large 100-mile dials. At the left of each dial is a veeder-type counter, the three digits of which indicate miles, tenths of a mile, and hundredths of a mile. Estimation for the nearest one one-thousandth of a mile is possible.

It is possible to operate many planes in the air at once and have them all use the same pair of ground stations. This is accomplished by an adjustment in the commutator that makes it impossible for two plane equipments interrogating a common ground station to stay synchronized for more than a small, fraction of a second, in spite of the fact that their interrogation rates are precisely the same.

The trace on the cathode ray tube is circular. A throw of a switch changes the deflection 'rate from a 1 to a 10, to a 100-mile scale. For navigational purposes, out to the initial point of a target run, the 100-mile scale is adequate. All traces on the oscilloscope are blanked out when using the 1 or 10-mile scales, except for the particular 1 or 10-mile interval containing the time.

The plane receiver controls are on the separate oblong panel, top centre. This receiver can be withdrawn and replaced in a matter of seconds in case of defective operation. All connections, with the exception of the antenna, are made through sliding contacts and are thus automatically broken and. reestablished when the unit is removed and replaced. The transmitter generates the signals radiated under control of the timing and indicating unit. It is usually mounted in some out-of-the-way position in the plane, since there are no adjustments that need attention while in flight.

The antenna for radiating the transmitter power is of the stub type and is mounted vertically either above or below the fuselage. The antenna proper is somewhat unconventional and consists of a center rod extending approximately, one-eighth wave length beyond a one-eighth wave grounded, concentric sleeve. The entire assembly is about 12 in. in length. In operation the antenna has relatively broad band characteristics and produces a low order of standing wave ratios on the 50-ohm transmission feed line throughout the transmitter frequency range.

The plane receiving antenna is of the same type construction, but is somewhat shorter in over-all length, since it receives signals from the ground stations, which transmit on approximately 310 megacycles.

Lengths of interconnecting cables between units and between the transmitter and receiver and their respective antennas have an effect on the total time spent by pulse energy in traversing all of the plane equipment circuits. Therefore each plane installation must be compensated by a process which involves sending of test signals around the complete loop and making the necessary corrections in the position of the marker pulse. (A calibration, was what we called it!)

A ground installation consists essentially of four principal units. These are the receiver-monitor, the transmitter, the antenna arrays, and a power supply. The complete equipment is air transportable and can be flown to a known location and put into operation within 90 minutes after arrival. (Oh yeah!)

The primary function of the ground equipment is to receive, reshape, and retransmit all pulses arriving at the location on the particular wave length to which the receiver is tuned. The elapsed, time between the arrival of a signal at the receiving antenna and the radiation of the resultant pulse from the transmitting antenna must be accurately adjusted to a fixed standard time interval. That adjustment, as well as others necessary for proper operation of the installation, is performed with, the aid of the monitor portion of the monitor-receiver unit.

The receiver is identical to and interchangeable with the receiver in a plane. It has a continuously adjustable tuning range between. 210 and 320 megacycles,

The transmitter is very similar to that used in a plane. However, when serving a larger number of planes, it has a much higher duty cycle, and the modulator circuits are therefore made heavier to handle that load. While the average plate power in a plane transmitter' is 30 watts during operation, the ground transmitter may be developing as much as 400 watts. The transmitting and receiving antennas are supported on a 50-ft sectionalized plywood mast.

Mobile monitor; for those with poor memory

Mobile transmitter


Base Tx


DC3 Interior



Base antenna

Nassau water tower control station

PBY Catalina antenna installation

Airborne Magnetometer Survey of Bahamas to Start Soon

With an aerial oil-exploration program which conceivably could open up areas of investigation which have heretofore been considered inaccessible, Aero Service Corp, shortly will commence a 50,000 to 80,000-sq. mile airborne magnetometer survey of the entire Bahamas area.

The survey, estimated to cost approximately $650,000, will be carried out by Anglo-Bahamian Petroleum Co (Anglo-Iranian Oil); Bahamas Exploration Co (Gulf Oil); Bahamas Oil Co (Superior Oil); Shell Co. of Bahamas (Royal Dutch-Shell); and Standard Oil Co. (Bahamas), an affiliate of Standard Oil Co. (N. J.).

Equipped with a magnetometer which was developed by Gulf Research & Development Co, along with the necessary instruments for controlling the flight, a DC-3 left for Nassau April 19. This survey will involve the most extensive use of continuously radio-controlled high-precision flight paths.

Most of the five companies and their associates are actively engaged, at present, with gravitimeter work in the Bahamas area. The results of the magnetic survey may easily have considerable effect on the exploration planning of the oil industry.

About 50 people will be actively engaged in the survey. This will include the plane crew, the crews of three boats - which will operate Shoran equipment - to determine position, and a ground crew of technicians and draftsmen to reduce and check the data, and to maintain the electronic devices necessary for the work.

Officials of Aero Services explained that the uncertainty of position, as determined by the magnetometer aircraft, does not exceed 200ft, and is usually less.

Magnetometer surveys must be conducted from planes that are in complete control at all times with reference to their altitude and flight course. When ground areas are surveyed, this control is exercised by means of aerial photography.

As the vast stretches of water encountered in the Bahamas survey will offer few recognizable datum points, it will be necessary to locate and control the plane by triangulation with the aid of Shoran, a position control device developed by RCA for the Army Air Force, and extensively used during the war.

Shoran equipment will be used at Nassau, in addition to which three boats will be similarly equipped and operated by Overseas Navigation Inc. The shore station and boats will be used as datum points from which the position control will be based. When the operation is in progress, these boats will be anchored fast to known positions.

The job of making a magnetometer survey at 2-mile intervals of the vast Bahamas area will require at least 6 to 8 months, with continuous operation of complex electronic signaling and recording devices. Invisible magnetic storms, resulting from sun spots, as well as more obvious wind storms and hurricanes of the region, will be among the natural forces to be reckoned with.

When the survey is finished, the five participating companies will have a map showing the magnetic variations recorded by this aerial survey, which then will be interpreted with a view of laying out further geophysical programs. One of the byproducts of the survey will be relocating of all the Bahamas Islands on a map.

Aero Service Corp has already conducted a 30,000-sq mile survey in Alaska with promising results. In these surveys, the plane can fly in cloudy weather and as a matter of fact much of the projected Bahamas surveys probably will be conducted at night as the air is not as rough, The aerial surveys will be followed by gravitimeter work for a certainty, according to Horner Jensen, chief of the magnetometer division of Aero Service Corp.

The chief operational problem of this survey will be to guide the plane within 200 ft. for a few thousand miles, a problem which is likely to be most complex.

Operating under very favorable conditions, it is estimated that 2,000 sq miles can be surveyed daily. However, considering normal weather conditions in that area, 10,000 sq miles a month will be considered excellent progress.

In conducting aerial magnetometer surveys, the plane must fly much lower than when aerial photographic work is being carried out.

Comm: Maurice Bayon & Bob Suggs 2nd & 3rd from right

Aero Service & ONI crews says one source, another says just Aero Service

PBY Catalina

PBY refueling boat

Charlie Bamsau wheelhouse

Modern Exploratory Tools Being Used In Bahamas Oil Search

This on the scene account tells the story of the oil Industry's most modern large-scale exploration project, where the airborne magnetometer is being used in conjunction with Shoran Radar to cover an 80,000 Sq mile area, of which only 10% is land surface. This is a pioneering project, and the experience gained will probably be valuable in future exploration activities that embrace large areas.

Nassau, Bahamas. If oil is found somewhere in these islands, or the surrounding shallow waters, there is every indication that finding cost will have been halved by the pioneering, large-scale exploration methods being employed. Just now the first great regional airborne magnetometer survey is nearing completion.

The actual operations are being carried out by two contracting organizations. International Aero Service Corp looks after the magnetic work using the instrument developed by Gulf Research & Development Co, Overseas Navigation Inc, takes care of the surveying, which is done by Shoran radar equipment. Homer Jensen, chief of Aero's magnetometer division, commutes between that company's Philadelphia headquarters and Nassau. Either Robert Suggs, president, or Maurice Bayon, vice president, of Overseas Navigation, commute monthly from the company's New Orleans headquarters to Nassau.

In addition to cooperative magnetic work, various companies are carrying on gravitimeter, and some seismograph work. Anglo-Iranian has two gravity parties working, one using company personnel and ships; the other a contract party from Robert H. Ray Co, of Houston, but using Anglo-Iranian ships. These parties have already covered about 1,100 sq miles of land area and 4,500 sq miles of water area. Anglo-Iranian has also completed a seismic experimental survey in the area around Southern Andros Island, the work being carried out by Seismograph Service Corp. of Tulsa.

The Jersey subsidiary has a seismic party at work now in the Grand Bahamas Island and Little Bahamas Island concession area. This company has also done gravity-meter work over vast areas of its widely scattered concessions.

Shell is conducting extensive marine work, after having completed similar work on the land areas of its concession. Gulf is currently confining its efforts to the magnetic work.

Superior has done gravity work on its concession around Andros Island and its portion of the Cay Sal area. It also did some seismic work on the portion of its concession around the Bimini Islands. At the present time its geophysical activity Is confined to the magnetic work.

In addition, of course, Superior has drilled the only well to date, abandoning it in April 1947 at 14,585 ft. because of mechanical difficulties. The well is located on Stafford Creek in about the middle of the northern part of Andros Island. It is reported that it reached the Lower Cretaceous and that core analyses showed the formations were similar to those in southern Florida. The well was spudded April. 24, 1946, long before the airborne magnetometer survey was started.

The aerial magnetometer work is well suited for the type of cooperative work being carried on here by the five participating companies because magnetic data of a small area are more valuable when they are viewed as a component part of data from an entire region. The companies deliberately chose a cooperative system which would cover some 80,000 sq. miles, so that each could see the entire regional magnetic picture, and interpret the portion affecting its concession against the regional background. There are, of course, special problems in this job due mainly to the fact that only 10 per cent of the area is land, while 80 percent is over shallow water (up to 25ft in depth), the remaining being in deep water.

The five oil companies coordinate their activities through a technical committee with one representative from each, company. However, in most sessions each company usually has another official present, so that administrative and technical matters can be correlated. It is apparent from conversations with oil men in Nassau, that some of the companies are participating with a dual purpose in mind. They want to become acquainted with these new exploratory methods; the highly technical equipment, the data involved, and the practical operating problems connected with their use, beside the apparent primary purpose of obtaining the magnetic data on their Bahamas concessions.

Official representatives for the participating companies form a committee which decides priority of survey areas; inspects and accepts maps: approves expenditures; and maintains a day-to-day liaison with Aero Service. The meetings are often "warm with disagreement" as one representative pointed out, but they usually end amicably.

Aero and Overseas Navigation, the contracting companies, each has about 35 men on the job, most of them scientists and technicians. The amount of equipment is in proportion to the magnitude of the job. The magnetic equipment, Shoran radar and other electronic items, planes, boats, etc, represent more than a million-dollar investment in original cost. However, many of the items are war-surplus equipment, which cut down the acquisition cost to the contractors.

All of this equipment and all the manpower revolve around one key factor: the data obtained by the aerial magnetometer carried by the specially equipped DC-3 plane. It is important therefore to keep this plane in the air as often and as long as weather and other conditions permit. On flying days, work at the Oakes Field Air Base at Nassau starts at 6 am and is not completed until 6 pm, or even later. The plane returns daily at noon and remains only long enough to be refueled and to change pilots and crews. For such operation, two flight and maintenance crews are required. The necessity for two crews becomes clear when it is realized that every full day of flying on this survey is equivalent to covering the distance from Nassau to Philadelphia and return. Moreover, all flying is "on instruments" over a rather rigidly defined series of courses on which the plane will never once be more than 150 ft out of line. The Shoran radar equipment is designed so that it operates a '"pilot and direction indicator," which enables the pilot to keep the plane headed accurately along a chosen path. The plane also carries an RCA specially designed recording radio altimeter. Since the Shoran path is also recorded, both the vertical and two horizontal components of the plane's position with respect to the earth's surface are recorded, and correlated by fiducial marks with the magnetic record.

Contact flying is impossible as there are few recognizable datum points in the vast areas of shallow water encountered in the Bahamas survey. It is little wonder that Aero's senior pilots, Richard Leaman and William Gillespie, find this type of flying much more fatiguing than ordinary flights. They say it is equivalent to flying an instrument landing system glide path all day. As Gillespie put it, "it's rather odd to fly a rigid path in space all day over open water and never once see either land or boats." In fact, as the pilots point out, as far as they are concerned, the job could be done at night as well as by day.

The plane crew is made up of five men: pilot, copilot, flight director, Shoran operator, and magnetometer operator. There is also a complex mass of electronic equipment for recording the magnetometer readings, altitude from the altimeter, and position fix from the Shoran radar. In addition there is ordinary radio equipment for maintenance of constant contact with the boats and headquarters near Oakes Field. In fact there is two-way communication open during all operations among all units, plane, boat, and headquarters. Shoran is turned on by radio orders, with regular watch schedules of all parties being observed daily.

Shoran, developed by the Army during the war, permits a plane to determine its position by triangulation with reference to two known points on the earth's surface, using radio waves from the plane to each of the two stations and returning to the plane for measuring the two legs of the triangle. Since the waves travel with the constant speed of light (186,00 miles per second), measurements of the fractional time interval between original transmission from the plane and reception back from the surface stations can he converted to distances. Shoran range, employing very short wave lengths, is limited to the line of sight.

In the Bahamas work, because the flights are at low altitude, and water is practically the only highway in the 80,000 sq. miles to be covered, the Shoran surface stations were established on boats to make it easy to place them where needed in the area. Four boats, all originally designed as Army (P) crash boats, have been converted for this purpose. Two of the Shoran boats are 85 ft in length, the other two are 104 ft.

Shoran has another advantage in the Bahamas, because accurate geodetic positioning by astronomical means is impossible due to extreme local gravity anomalies. Using Shoran, the US Army last year tied in a few points in the Bahamas to the North American geodetic grid. Aero took advantage of this Survey and set up its own Shoran stations near these known points, one permanently atop a water tower in the centre of Nassau, others as needed on boats moored near the known points and surveyed into them.

In positioning the Shoran boats, the project engineer directs them to assume approximate positions by dead reckoning, with the spacing being about 30 miles between the stations. Then they are anchored and their exact positions triangulated in by Shoran, with the airplane making the measurements. Thereafter the boats provided continuous track of position for the plane flying in that general area.

To keep a constant record of the diurnal magnetic variations, and above all else, to detect magnetic storms (which are probably more closely related to sunspot disturbances than to what the layman considers weather), a ground diurnal station is located in a radio shack back of the Nassau headquarters. If the magnetic storms are severe, all operations are immediately called off. Actually the diurnal variations up to October 22 had been very low and consequently had not been a source of interruption of operations.

When it is considered that the Bahamas survey is believed to be the most extensive project of radio-guided flight ever undertaken, either by military or civilian personnel, it is obvious that the electronic equipment has been subjected to severe trial. From conversations with the electronic maintenance technicians at Nassau, one is led to understand that maintenance troubles, though time consuming, have caused surprisingly little delay in the continuity of the survey. These men seem amazed that this full plane load of complex, relatively untested electronic equipment, all of which must function perfectly and in coordination, has stood up so well, and caused so few work stoppages.

Maintenance of equipment is important, but so is maintenance of the morale and physical well being of the men engaged in the various phases of geophysical activities in this vast expanse of mostly empty, water covered space. Rotation of relief crews on the boats is done by chartered amphibian planes, usually either a Grumman Goose or a PBY. In spite of the high charter cost per hour it has been found considerably cheaper to make such transfers by plane rather than by boat, and certainly cheaper than making expensive turnaround trips in the operating unit boats. The planes land in open water near the boats and transfer men and supplies. On one occasion when a hurricane threatened a boat stranded with insufficient fuel, Overseas had a PBY flown to the boat and pumped gasoline directly from the wing tanks of the plane into the fuel tanks of the boat. The present operations use about, 2,000 bbl of gasoline per month.

Other geophysical crews which operate aboard boats, in good weather are away from Nassau as much as a month at a time. Periodic plane contacts are made with these units, Anglo-Iranian maintains a bi-weekly air service to a repair base in southern Andros Island, where there is a complete workshop and refrigeration facilities. This company also has a supply boat which makes periodic visits to its various marine units.

It is probably foolhardy to attempt to evaluate the practical results that can be expected from the magnetic data secured. Thus far only the preliminary, uncorrected contour maps are available. Relatively little is known about their ultimate meaning. If any of the companies which have had the aerial magnetometer surveys completed over their concessions have gained any pertinent information from the preliminary data, nothing has been divulged.

As might be expected, with the data at this stage, there are rumors of differences of opinion among geologists, some feeling that the data gathered so far indicate that some of the generally held beliefs about the geology of this region are in error. Others do not agree, and hold that certain extensive gravitimeter and seismic-exploration results lead to other conclusions.

The Bahamas job, like all pioneering efforts, will be costly, probably more costly than subsequent aerial magnetic projects, due to experience gained. In addition, this operation has been severely handicapped by the worst hurricane season in 60 years, according to the weather records compiled by Anglo-Iranian. When a hurricane is approaching, all boats must be moved to a safe place, and work may be stopped completely if a safe area for continued working cannot be found, In the first big hurricane in October, the Shoran boats were sent to Cuba, and all escaped damage. Meantime, however, salaries and other overheads go on piling up.

Adam Bamsau 

Baker Bamsau 

Charlie Bamsau on location

Bamsau George & Baker

Jimmy Strayhorn & Luke Carter on Charlie

Bamsau Charlie crew

The Bahamas operation was, naturally, followed by others: Mexico, 1948; Kuwait, 1951, and, since those early days, ONI and its associated companies worked in over eighty-five other countries. A general recession early in 1950 caused by the controversial Federal-State ownership of the tidelands areas in the Gulf of Mexico was successfully weathered.

At the request of the US Military, the company established a Shoran school during the Korean War. Further, the company was represented in Korea by Joseph DeLerno, as a technical representative.

Overseas Navigation Inc was succeeded in 1955 by International Offshore Navigation Inc, active in Central and South America. Offshore Raydist Inc was organized in February 1952. This was a jointly owned corporation with Hastings Raydist and Offshore Navigation, as equal partners. Raydist, a hyperbolic system was able to solve the Shoran distance limitations in the Gulf of Mexico. Raydist, from January 1963, furnished positioning services to the US Navy in connection with the Polaris Missile Submarine sea trials.

In March 1966, the first public offering of ONI stock was made (an offering within the company had previously been made to the employees).

Continuing expansion of activities necessitated the opening of several area offices. First was Long Beach, California in 1948. Others that have followed are: Houston, Texas; Anchorage, Alaska; Sydney, Australia; Singapore; Geneva, Switzerland; Tampico, Mexico; and Calgary, Canada in 1971.

Besides ORI and ONI, other subsidiary companies were: Automated ONI, 1970; Servicios Radiometricos Sociedad Anonima, 1970; Radiometric Services Inc, 1970; Offshore Navigation (Nigeria) Ltd, 1970; Offshore Navigation (Canada) Ltd, 1971; West Africa Surveys Inc, 1971; Offshore Engineering Surveys, 1974, North Sea Navigation.

So, briefly through the years:

1946: Offshore Navigation Inc founded on March 23rd 1946.

First client was the California Company (now Chevron Oil Co). Site of operation was in the Grand Isle area of Louisiana.

Formation of a wholly-owned subsidiary company, Overseas Navigation Inc to conduct a Bahamian operation.

1947: First overseas operation. Aerial magnetometer operation in the Bahamas for a group of petroleum companies. Participating for ONI were war veterans Louie Conner, George Roussel, Johnnie Lott, Jim Strayhorn, Bob Schmidt, and Poncho Ramirez. Shoran base stations were installed on a number of the nine company-owned war surplus air-sea rescue vessels. For the next eight years, ONI would be in the "boat business" with all the problems attendant to operating and maintaining marine craft.

First Shoran land survey operation was conducted on the Edwards Plateau of west Texas.

1948: Significant expansion of domestic marine geophysical operations. First project on US West Coast was in California, under John Coffman's supervision. First Latin American operation was in Campeche Bay, Mexico. Ray Landry, Poncho Ramirez, George Fossier, Jim Strayhorn, Jim Castell, and Al LeBlanc were assigned to that project.

1949: ONI selected to train US Air Force personnel in operation and maintenance of Shoran. Joe DeLerno was one of our instructors. Several students, Tom Matthews - ONI Technical Services Manager - and John Narramore joined ONI years later, after retiring from the Air Force.

1950: First Venezuelan operation took place in this year. George Roussel and Poncho Ramirez operated Shoran base stations for an aerial magnetometer survey conducted by Aero Service, Inc.

1951: First Middle East operation. Among the participants were: Les Schroeder, George Fossier, Jim Strayhorn, Hank Bosch, and Hilton Borne.

1952: The formation of Offshore Raydist Inc, a jointly-owned subsidiary with Hastings Raydist Inc, of Hampton, Virginia. Prior to 1952, all operations were conducted with the Shoran radiopositioning system.

The first Canadian project was an aerial magnetometer operation conducted in the Canadian Arctic. Among those participating were Dave Henry, Earl Benson, and Ed Barney.

Initial African operation. ONI provided Shoran base station personnel for photo and aerial magnetometer operations conducted by Aero Service Inc, in Liberia. Personnel assigned were Hilton Borne, Camille Belsom, George Barry, Bryan Price, Jack Kron, Oyt Burge, and John Brinegar.

1955: International Offshore Navigation Inc formed.

Geophysical activity intensifies in the Lake Maracaibo area of Venezuela. For the next several years many ONI personnel would work there.

1956: First ONI operation south of the equator took place in Brazil under Jim Castell's supervision.

Prior to 1957 ONI had few foreign operations, most of the company's radiopositioning activities taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, and off the US West Coast.

1957: Marked the second Canadian aerophoto job, with Al Leffler, Milton Hock, Harry Asher, Bill Parkhurst, Ed Barney and John Passman.

1959: The precursor of many operations yet to come in Alaska was conducted here.

The year also witnessed initial operations on the European mainland. After a brief operational period off Sicily, our activities took in the Adriatic coast of Italy. Records show participation by Joe DeLerno, George Dugas, Fred Wood, Hans Karlsson, Wilbur Boudreaux, Aaron Jenkins, and Corbin Pomroy.

1962: Saw the first operation on the Indian subcontinent, in West Pakistan. This year also found ONI operating in Australia for the first time.

1963: Early on, ONI subsidiary, Offshore Raydist Inc, was awarded a significant contract by the US Navy to provide positioning services for its Polaris class nuclear-powered submarines during builders' trials at many US Navy and commercial facilities. This contract was renewed each year, and continued on through to the late 70's, although at a reduced intensity experienced during the mid to late 60's. Employees on the advance team instrumental in getting this project off to a good start were, Joe DeLerno, Bob Dreyer, Paul Jensen, Mike McGraw, Tom Mestayer, Jim Rust and Bill Terry. (This service contract was still ongoing in 1983)

1964: Year of the destructive Alaska "Good Friday" earthquake, responsible for numerous deaths and injuries, and which caused extensive damage to the city of Anchorage and the port city of Valdez.

1965: At last ONI had a home of its own! After occupying rented facilities for many years that it had outgrown, ONI moved to its own newly constructed spacious headquarters at Harahan, just outside central New Orleans.

First Southeast Asia operation, off Palawan Island, Republic of the Philippines.

1966: Saw maximum utilization of Raydist positioning services on the Gulf of Mexico.

1967:The ONI developed ONIX system was first employed on a southern California operation.

1968: Extended Range (X~R) Shoran was first used overseas for an operation in Brazil.

ONI opened an Area office in Singapore. Ted Patro appointed Area Manager for Southeast Asia operations.

1969: By adopting electronic hardware developed for weak radio signal reception, and improved high gain antennas, ONI, began to offer a trans-horizon Shoran service. Very significant improvements in the service range of Shoran radio-positioning were thereby realized.


Area office for Europe, Africa and the Middle East opened in Geneva, Switzerland, early in the year. These areas had formerly been run from the Lebanon area office, Beirut, which closed in January 1969.

ONI began offering satellite navigation positioning services.

1970: The Loran-C radio-positioning first employed in 1970.

To serve the needs of increasing business in its service areas, 1970 saw the function of ONI subsidiaries, Offshore Navigation of Canada Limited, Radiometric Services Inc, and Servicios Radiometricos Sociedad Anonima.

1971: West Africa Surveys Inc, an ONI subsidiary company, was formed.

1972: First operation in Greenland took place.

Shoran IV radio-positioning system first employed on a foreign operation, in the Mediterranean, off Sicily and Malta. Serving on that operation were Dave Taylor, Ron Hewson, Louie Conner, Bob Brown, Bill Swan, Bill Justice, Tony Hoggart, and Graeme Wood.

1974: The first ACCUFIX operation in Alaska took place.

ONI began commercial operations in a new marine service field, Offshore Engineering Surveys (OES) by providing high resolution, shallow penetration geophysical, bathymetric, and other related data. Such data is utilized in siting considerations relating to petroleum drilling structures, pipeline right-of-ways, dredging operations, archeological site detection, and for a number of other marine resource exploitation applications. Employee's participating on the initial OES Operation aboard the M/V Johnny Walker off the Louisiana coast were: Jim Mahlum, Mike Coster, Greg Akers, Howard Hayes, Kelly Robertson, Darrell Camp, Ernie Shuler, Mike Hixson, and Bill Majoue.

1976: The year marked our first retirement from employment. Rita "Hefty" Fried, our confidante, receptionist, and telephone switchboard operator since 1953, retired in April. Hefty will be remembered for her..................

So we can all find out what it was that "Hefty" will be remembered for, along with the conclusion of this abbreviated history of ONI, I need pages 5 thru 14 of the November 1976 Crosstalk. And should anyone have anything to offer along similar lines, post 1976, please feel free. It is your website.

Although Shoran and Raydist (a hyperbolic, lane-count type system) were ONI's bread and butter for many years, other systems were developed (some in conjunction with other companies) and introduced over time:

XR (for Extended Range) Shoran, and Shoran IV were longer range ONI developments of the original system.

Loran-C was offered, often in conjunction with the Transit Satellite system.

JMR-1 satellite receivers, used mainly for surveying in base station sites around the world.

Transfix. DT used this on trials in the Beaufort Sea and saw ranges well over 150 miles, but remembers nothing of what it looked like. Used Log  Periodic antennas.

ONIX & ONIX S trisponder, short range, line-of-site micro systems by ONI.

Argo (by Cubic) was another Hyperbolic system, and was later used in conjunction with the initial GPS constellation, which served to maintain lane count.

Maxiran was an ONI developed, transistorized and simplified version of Shoran.

Syledis. A French system, similar to Maxiran. The long range version used an amplifier on the shore stations which took at least four people to carry!

Accufix: A 100 KHZ system, very long range, required 150 foot towers, and cesium standards to stabilize the ranging data. 

Micronet was an HF frequency data link developed by ONI. This was the first system used to transfer large amounts of data via HF radio over very long distances (up to approx. 600 to 800 km. We used this system to transmit differential GPS data from the reference station to the seismic Vessels. This was used to confirm the accuracy of Spot. Micronet was replaced by a satellite data link towards the end.

Spot: was designed and developed by ONI. This took several years and several millions of dollars. The system was the first Spread Spectrum transmission system. The navigation ranging and calibration data was transmitted over 68000 discrete frequencies. This made the system immune to phase shifting and allowed a low powered signal to be detected and used over very long ranges up to 1000km. The French came out with a similar system a couple of years later. Apparently, just after the completion of the Spot system trials, a complete set of schematics went missing! One wonders if the French ended up with these, and were thus able to save a couple of years and millions of dollars developing their system. Spot was the best system ONI ever used, and it was operational in Australia up to the time the Perth Office closed. We were able to cover the whole of Northern and Northwest Australia from east of Darwin to Karratha with eight stations. Eventually, Spot, as well as most other systems, were replaced by differential GPS.

GPS was first used by ONI as far back as 1984, possibly even earlier. At first it was primarily used to maintain lane-count on the Argo system. Its use was limited by the few satellites that were available, and even then there were few periods during the day when three or four satellites were simultaneously at the correct altitude and angle to give an accurate fix. But as more satellites were launched, and the system achieved better reliability, things improved dramatically. Initially, the oil companies took some persuading, even though the operators could see the potential of the system, despite "Selective Availability". Then, with the advent of Differential Corrections, it was "game on," and everyone was in on the act. Nowadays, with a full constellation of reliable satellites, plus back-up, navigation has become simple and reliable for almost anyone - though you do still need to know how to set it up properly so as to achieve full potential. Simple, but a point missed by the majority of everyday (non professional) users.


Sad sight.The ex-ONI Headquarters buildings in Harahan, September 2007

Photos courtesy of Pat Mathews 


Please contact the webmaster if you are able to help with any further information on the above systems, or to correct my mistakes! 

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