top of page

Admiral (retired) Sigmund R. Petersen

Feb 9, 2024

Rear Admiral Sigmund R. Petersen, NOAA (Ret.), 4th Director of the NOAA Commissioned Corps, passed away at the age of 87 on January 24, 2024. Born in Haugesund, Norway, in 1936, he emigrated with his parents to the United States in 1948. After completing his B.S. degree at Washington State University, he joined the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USCGS) in 1961, serving through the transitions to the Environmental Science Services Administration Corps (ESSA Corps) and modern day NOAA Corps, ultimately rising to the rank of rear admiral.  He received a Master of Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island in 1971.   

During his career, RADM Petersen sailed aboard four different ships of the USCGS and NOAA fleets, including Pathfinder, McArthur, Miller Freeman (the ship’s first NOAA Corps Commanding Officer), and Discoverer (Commanding Officer). A broadly scoped career, he held numerous operational, hydrographic, cartographic, geodetic, meteorological, and oceanographic positions, spanning from Coast & Geodetic Survey and National Ocean Service programs, to the Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Services, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Marine Operations. 

RADM Petersen received countless accolades throughout his career including the DOC Silver Medal and two NOAA Corps Commendation Medals.  He was awarded the NOAA Administrator’s Award in 1989 for his participation in Operation Breakthrough, an international effort in 1988 to free three gray whales from pack ice in the Beaufort Sea near Barrow, Alaska. In 1990, while serving as Director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Center, RADM Petersen was confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the President as Director, Office of NOAA Corps Operations, where he commendably served for five years prior to retiring in 1995.

Throughout his retirement, RADM Petersen remained committed to the NOAA Corps, accepting brief recalls to active duty for various administrative functions and maintaining contact with colleagues. Memories shared by those who had the fortune to know and/or work with RADM Petersen fondly recall that he was a self-effacing leader, quick to defer credit for success to his people; and that he openly shared his passion for NOAA science and the Corps to anyone within earshot.  More information about RADM Petersen may be found on his Wikipedia page.

bottom of page