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Images: The Airplane That Studied the Ocean

Ed Denton, who retired from WHOI in 1995, was hired three decades earlier to transform a former military plane into a flying oceanographic research machine, tailoring it for scientists’ needs. Decades after it had been taken from service at WHOI, he found the plane completely by chance while visiting a California museum. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Members of the C-54 Skymaster aircraft's last flight crew while at WHOI included (from left) pilot Len Halverson, co-pilot Jack Cornell, navigator Hal Merry, engineer Bill Brown, flight mechanic Lee Russell, and radio officer Frank Mathews. (Photo by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Archives)

In 1964, while flying over the Indian Ocean, engineer Ed Denton (seated) and WHOI scientist Andy Bunker monitored records of scientific and atmospheric information aboard the C-54 airplane, including temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, the aircraft's speed, and compass bearings. All the information was recorded on analog tape for further analyses back at WHOI.

(Photo by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Archives)
When Denton rediscovered the plane at the Aerospace Museum of California, it had been painted brown while in use by the U.S. Forest Service. Denton found out that after the plane left WHOI, it had had "a real colorful history," including drug smuggling. He is now encouraging restoration of the plane to show how it was used for oceanographic research. (Photo courtesy of Ed Denton)
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is the world's leading non-profit oceanographic research organization. Our mission is to explore and understand the ocean and to educate scientists, students, decision-makers, and the public.
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