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George Tupper

Research Associate
Physical Oceanography
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

1.  I remember when she arrived, in December, 1975.  As I understand it, she was to be a replacement for the R/V Chain, which was retired that year.  She arrived looking pretty ugly.  Rather than being painted, she was coated in dimetcote - a primer which was good for resisting marine corrosion.  She looked like a '55 Chevvy in primer - all gray and not very good looking.  I heard this was an economy measure.  Dick Edwards - the Marine Superintendent at the time - was convinced that WHOI could save money and get a better paint job if the ship was painted here at WHOI using WHOI labor.

In retrospect, I think the good condition of the ship in 2011 is - in some part - reflective of the dimetcote coating which was applied when she was new.  The other reason for her good condition is the outstanding care her crew has given her through the years.  To my eyes, she looks as good now, in 2011, as when she was brand new - and that is a credit to her Captain and crew.

Of course, when she was delivered, there was a bit of good-natured joshing between her crew and the crew of the R/V Knorr, a much larger ship.  The Knorr had a 2500 horspower engine and she was - at the time - 245 feet long. (This was before she was stretched by 34 feet during the refit)

Oceanus, on the other hand, was only 177 feet long and had a 2800 horsepower engine.  I heard a rumor that during Oceanus' sea trials, she could go faster full speed astern than the Knorr could go full speed ahead.  I do remember that when the throttle was opened, you could actually feel the ship accelerate because she had so much power.  Before the fuel crisis, I can remember her making 15.5 knots at full speed.

2.  I was Chief Scientist on a few buoy cruises in the '80s, and I still remember shooting the breeze with Captain Paul Howland on the bridge during his watch from 8 PM until midnight.  We'd talk about all kinds of things and then, at the end of the watch, he would often invite me down to his cabin to "heave ahead" - his words for having a cocktail after work.  Those were some of the most enjoyable times of the cruise for me.  (This was in the days before alcohol was banned from the ships)  He would make up a couple of vodka martinis and pass me one and we'd talk.  He was a very good host and a great conversationalist.  He was truly interested in how your life was going and how your family was doing - a real pleasure to talk to.  I guess the best description of him was that he was a real gentleman.

He was also a respected mariner, an extremely capable Captain,  and ran a very happy ship.  If there's one thing I can remember, it's that the crew would do anything to get the job done.  There was never an issue of, "Oh, we can't do that", or "that's not the way we do things out here."  As with all WHOI ships, there is a mutual respect shared between the scientists and the crew and it results in high-quality science.

3.  In 2002, in the Northern Irminger Sea, between Iceland and Greenland, I was Chief Scientist and also doing hydrography in a 20 foot portable "hydro van" mounted on the 01 deck.  One day, I was doing my salt and oxygen analyses in the van, and I happened to look out the window at a large iceberg about a mile away.  Captain Diego Mello, who had been in the Coast Guard on an icebreaker earlier in his career, called me on the intercomm and said, "Watch this."  As I looked out the window at the iceberg, the ship's horn started blowing.  I'm not sure what I expected to see, but after a few seconds, the iceberg broke in half!  As Captain Mello told me later, sometimes bergs became unstable, and just a bit of sound vibrations were enough to cause them to split apart.

I remember thinking, "How many people have a job where they can look out the window while they're working and see something like I just witnessed?"

Last updated: November 18, 2011