R/V Oceanus Retirement



Celebrating R/V Oceanus and its crew

When Capt. Larry Bearse reported for his new job sailing for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he and his friends saw two ships tied side by side on the WHOI dock—one a large research vessel, the other R/V Oceanus.

“What ship are you going on?” his friends asked. “It’s got to be that ship there,” Bearse replied, pointing to the big ship, “because that little thing’s not going across the ocean.” Bearse quickly discovered what scientists and crew found out when they sailed aboard the 177-foot Oceanus. “It turns out she’s an excellent sea boat,” Capt. Bearse said.

Designed by John W. Gilbert Associates of Boston, Oceanus was constructed by Peterson Builders of Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. Its name comes from the Greek Titan Oceanus, father of the river gods and sea nymphs, who was represented as a great stream of water encircling the Earth that was the source of all bodies of water. It sailed into Woods Hole in November 1975, painted a bleak battleship gray, but with distinctive, rakish-looking twin stacks arranged like king-posts on either side of the bridge. Physical oceanographer Bob Beardsley was chief scientist on the ship’s first scientific mission for WHOI in April in 1976.

Owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Oceanus was operated by a crew of 12 and accommodated 20 scientists for up to 30 days at sea. Over 35 years (with a major mid-life renovation in 1994), Oceanus conducted nearly 500 missions, spanning all fields of oceanography and covering hundreds of thousands of miles from Georges Bank to the Red Sea and south to the Sargasso Sea and the Angola Basin. It served some 250 chief scientists and their scientific parties.

As Oceanus retires, we salute the ship’s crews, who confronted the challenges of the sea with innovation, expertise, and a can-do spirit and got the job done. Oceanus joins the fleet of illustrious WHOI ships that have brought back hard-won knowledge about how the oceans work.

R/V Oceanus Scrapbook

R/V Oceanus Scrapbook

Memories and tributes from those who worked on Oceanus.
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R/V Oceanus in Pictures

R/V Oceanus in Pictures

Trace the ship's career in this collection of images from launch to present day.
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Special Features

Capt. Mello Salutes R/V Oceanus

Diego Mello salutes the ship on which he served for more than 15 years.
November 18, 2011

Online Expeditions

In Search of Tricho

April 23 to May 13, 2011
Scientists aboard R/V Oceanus study the health and function of plankton in the western North Atlantic.

Charismatic Microfauna

August 7 to September 2, 2011
Biologist Gareth Lawson works with chemists and applied ocean physicists learn more about the effects of ocean acidification on pteropods, a group of gastropods (like snails) that live in the marine pelagic environment.

Cruising Where Currents Collide

August 2004 and February 2005
At Cape Hatteras offshore North Carolina, scientists are learning about the turbulent meeting of two powerful Atlantic currents. See photos and read about their research.

From Oceanus Magazine

WHOI Ship Hunts for Revolutionary War Wreck

A research vessel joins the search for John Paul Jones's famous ship
Source: Oceanus Magazine

Going for the GUSTO (Mooring)

WHOI engineers and the Oceanus crew rescue a wounded buoy
Source: Oceanus Magazine

The Oceans Have Their Own Weather Systems

Pioneering expeditions investigate how eddies make life bloom in oceanic deserts
Source: Oceanus Magazine

Where Currents Collide

Nineteen days at sea in the 'graveyard of the Atlantic'
Source: Oceanus Magazine

Medical Training Gets Put to the Test

Oceanus crewmembers trade the helm for the doctor bag.

WHOI and Access to the Sea

Source: Oceanus Magazine

Replacing the Fleet

15 years from Concept to Delivery
Source: Oceanus Magazine