Richard Pittenger

Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (retired)
Special Assistant for Strategic Planning
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Notes from RADM Richard Pittenger's remarks at the Oceanus's retirement celebration in November of 2011.

I will talk about the people who made OCEANUS a reality and who made her a success.

  • It starts with Julius (Jay) Stratton, Chair of the Stratton Commission. Certainly his report had the most far reaching impact on the ocean-related field of any commission before or after. Just a list of legislation that flowed from it is instructive:
    • NOAA-- was created
    • The Environmental Protection Act--EPA
    • The Endangered Species Act
    • The Clean Water Act
    • The Coastal Zone Management Act
    • The Marine Mammal Protection Act
    • The Magneson Act
    • Sea Grant
    • And  UNOLS
  • UNOLS was created to: keep the academic fleet private; to prevent/reduce internecine warfare;to improve access to all research ships by all potential researchers; to establish and maintain safe shipboard standards(NB Just prior two leased research ships had been lost with all hands.)
    • Regarding safety, it must be noted that UNOLS has remarkable safety record--the best among all sea-going professions. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that these great crews go to sea with "amateurs" as far as shipboard research operations. Doing that safely takes careful attention and great skill. We have to credit UNOLS and our wonderful crews for that performance.
  • Back to people. On the Stratton Commission were leaders like John Knauss (URI). Bob Dinsmore(WHOI) was a staffer. The community got behind it. Arthur Maxwell(WHOI) was the first Chair of UNOLS and Bob Dinsmore (WHOI) was the first Executive Secretary of UNOLS. Paul Fye, WHOI Director, played a major role in implementing UNOLS and in supporting the idea of NSF funding the Oceanus class of Intermediate R/Vs.
  • In DC there were heroes such as Mary Jordey and later my friend and classmate Jack McMillen who had the requisite fire in their guts to shepard ships through the community and budget processes.
  • Then came a great lady, Dolly Dieter, who we should all thank her for everything she has done for the community. Dolly would crawl through our ship with white coveralls and, if they came out dirty, we'd be in trouble.
  • Ship advocates among the user scientists, Institution leaders including Paul Fye, Agency program managers; right down to people like the former WHOI CFO Captain Jack Scott, who crewed the delivery cruise--showing how deeply salt water ran in their veins in those days.
  • Jon Leiby, the WHOI naval architect who designed Oceanus and also Atlantis II, is here tonight.
  • More recently Joe Coburn was the spark plug in the community behind behind the mid-life conversion of the Oceanus class. That conversion had to wait until the Knorr-Melville conversion situation cleared up; when it did, Joe ran the contract which turned out so well--and on budget!
  • Then we have mention our great Captains, some of whom are with us tonight I see Mike Palmieri, Paul Howland, Diego Mello and Larry Bearse. These are not ordinary seamen, they are extraordinarily skilled mariners. So, when NSF directed that we do the GLOBEC project with the Oceanus, we had reservations about sending 177 foot ships to Georges Bank in the winter we were able to do it safely. The reason we were able to do that was the skill of these men, the captains, and their well trained and capable crews!!
  • Those crews are so capably supported by the Port Office-- Al Suchy, Dutch Wegman and in the past, Joe Coburn, Dick Dimmock and Dick Edwards
  • And of course, all this has been on behalf of our customers, the wonderfully imaginative and demanding scientists.