In Memoriam: Arthur Dickinson Colburn, Jr.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death December 20, 2003, of Arthur Dickinson Colburn, Jr. of Falmouth at Falmouth Hospital after a brief illness. He was 76.

Arthur Dickinson "Dick" Colburn was born June 24, 1927, in Boston and grew up in Walpole, MA. He attended Walpole schools and Tabor Academy, graduating in 1945. He served briefly in the US Navy from July 1945 to August 1946, then enrolled at Bowdoin College, where he received a bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1950. Shortly after graduation from Bowdoin he enrolled at the Boyell School of Navigation in Boston, where he completed the Third Mate's course in 1950.

Dick Colburn joined the Institution staff in December 1950 as an ordinary seaman aboard the 142-foot ketch Atlantis, and spent the next 40 years working aboard various WHOI research vessels.   During the early part of his long WHOI career Dick served aboard Research Vessel Atlantis and was soon promoted to able bodied seaman in 1951, to Second Mate in 1952, to First Mate in 1953 and to Captain in 1954.   Dick Colburn was the last captain of the Atlantis, which was retired from the WHOI fleet in 1964 and sold to Argentina in 1966. After brief trips on Research Vessels Crawford, the new Atlantis II and Gosnold , Dick was assigned to Asterias as boat operator in June 1964. Although he served relief positions aboard Gosnold, Chain and Lulu through the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dick spent much of his later career working on coastal research and engineering projects aboard the Asterias.

A quiet individual, Dick loved the sea and had a special affection for Atlantis and Asterias , the Institution's first two research vessels. When the Atlantis was layed up in 1963 and later bought by Argentina, Dick sailed the vessel from an East Boston shipyard, where it was refurbished, to Woods Hole for the change of command and change of ownership ceremonies in 1966.   He and many others watched from the dock as the ship sailed for Argentina and a new career as the rechristened El Austral.

Dick also sailed aboard the original 40-foot Asterias, which like Atlantis joined the WHOI fleet in 1931. When the first Asterias was retired in 1980, he took the helm of the new 46-foot Asterias and spent the next decade helping scientists, engineers and students conduct research and test equipment in coastal waters throughout New England and in Long Island Sound. He retired from the Institution in January 1990, but worked in casual status aboard Asterias from October 1991 to January 1997.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara (Atwood) Colburn, of Falmouth; one brother, Peter D. Colburn of Harpswell, ME; two sons, A.D. Colburn III and David N. Colburn, both of Falmouth; one daughter, Susan C. Nevler of Seattle, WA; four grandchildren, two nephews, and one cousin.

Funeral arrangements were private. Dick will be buried at sea in Casco Bay, Maine and off Cape Cod. A celebration of his life will be held next summer for family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Dick Coburn's memory may be made to the Visiting Nursing Association of Upper Cape Cod, Ter Heun Drive, Falmouth, MA 02540.


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Arthur Dickinson Colburn, Jr.

Arthur Dickinson Colburn, Jr.