Our History

Our History

The NOC’s origins date back to 1949 with the formation of the National Institute of Oceanography. The institute grew from the work of scientists working at Antarctic whaling stations and the complimentary voyages of Captain Scott's Discovery and a small group of young scientists brought together during the war, to study how the movements of the waves affected amphibious landings. The National Institute of Oceanography’s discoveries in the 1950s and 1960s underpin much of our modern-day marine science, including the complex connections between oceans and climate.

For the full history of our origins read: Of Seas and Ships and Scientists: The Remarkable History of the UK's National Institute of Oceanography, 1949–1973

The NOC Southampton

The NOC’s waterfront headquarters in Southampton was opened in 1996 by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, as the Southampton Oceanography Centre. It brought together the University of Southampton’s departments of oceanography and geology with the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, which was previously in Wormley, Surrey, and Research Vessel Services, formerly based at Barry Docks in South Wales.

The centre was renamed the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton in 2005, again by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, its new name reflecting its prominence and national capability in ocean and earth sciences.

Until April 2010, the University of Southampton and the Natural Environment Research Council jointly owned the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The term National Oceanography Centre, Southampton continues to be used to describe the collaborative relationship at the waterfront campus.

The NOC site in Southampton houses around 520 research scientists and staff, and over 700 undergraduate and postgraduate students call the NOC home. The NOC’s on-site resources include the UK National Oceanographic Library, the nationally important Discovery Collections and the British Ocean Sediment Core Repository. The NOC is also the base for the purpose-built research vessels RRS Discovery and RRS James Cook (and formerly RRS Charles Darwin).

On 1 February 2010 the merger of the NOCS and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Liverpool was announced. The combined institute became known as the National Oceanography Centre. The new combined centre brought together a full range of deep ocean and coastal oceanographic expertise enabling the centre to excel with national capability.

The NOC Liverpool

Joseph Proudman Building, LiverpoolThe National Oceanography Centre’s Liverpool site, on the University of Liverpool campus, was previously the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, specialising in tidal and sea level science. It hosts the National Tidal and Sea Level Facility, the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level and the British Oceanographic Data Centre. It was previously housed at the Bidston Observatory, Wirral until moving to the University of Liverpool campus in 2004.

The Liverpool site keeps alive the research carried out by the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, which has a long and diverse scientific tradition that started in 1845 when the first Liverpool Observatory was established to provide accurate navigation for shipping. Meteorological observations were also started to provide local forecasts for shipping. In the later 20th century, the work of the institute expanded into many areas of oceanographic research including long-term sea-level change, one result of which was recognition of the need for a barrier in the Thames.

Today the NOC site in Liverpool is involved in a wide range of oceanographic research, expanding its horizons and increasing our knowledge across a range of disciplines in the oceanographic sciences.

Related information

Detailed chronological history - From Astronomy to Oceanography