John Farrington

Scientist Emeritus
Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Cruises on R/V Oceanus: Recollections by John W. Farrington

I was at WHOI when R/V Oceanus arrived and as an Emeritus Scientist I celebrate her career as she goes into retirement. John Burke of the then Chemistry Department (now Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry) was Chief Scientist on Oceanus Cruise 1 and was kind enough to take a Burke Sphincter Core for me in the Wilkinson Basin of the Gulf of Maine, while bringing the ship from the Wisconsin shipyard to Woods Hole. We analyzed a few sections of that core in my laboratory for hydrocarbons in an early attempt to discern historical records of fossil fuel hydrocarbons in contemporary sediments.

I have sailed on five cruises on Oceanus. The first two were short cruises (Oceanus 19 -12/20-21/1976 and Oceanus 20 12/28-29/1976) to Georges Bank in a rapid response mode during the tanker Argo Merchant oil spill. Oceanus 19 was particularly memorable. Captain Mike Palmieri came to the scientists on the deck in the snow and ice in the middle of the night and told us that we had to secure sampling despite the importance of sampling near the oil spill. We had to get to shelter because the Oceanus was icing up topside, the barometer was rapidly falling and the weather was blowing up much worse. As we proceeded back to Woods Hole into the lee of Martha’s Vineyard in Nantucket Sound, we heard on the ship’s radio the U. S. Coast Guard report that the full gale that had blown up was causing the Argo Merchant to break up into a bow and stern section. As we arrived at the dock in Woods Hole, it was like a chaotic three ring circus. There were several ships berthed at the dock preparing to respond to the oil spill. News media, including TV crews, were on the WHOI dock. To my eyes, there was only enough dock- side space – maybe - to accommodate the Oceanus if you shoe horned her in exactly sideways. Despite this, somehow Captain Mike Palmieri eased her in on the first pass in an extraordinary feat of seamanship.

I had three more cruises on Oceanus (Oc-50, Oc74, OC86-2) in the North Atlantic, all as Chief Scientist and with Captain Palmieri. During Oc-74 in 1979 we celebrated Thanksgiving at sea. For me and the biogeochemistry of organic chemicals research efforts in which I was involved, Oceanus was a great ship and Captain Palmieri and crew were great professionals and dedicated to enabling us to get our science done.