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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Hartley Hoskins Remember the Oceanus Delivery Cruise
OCEANUS Delivery Cruise - October/November 1975
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin to Levis, Quebec
The OCEANUS has two sister ships – Oregon State’s WECOMA and URI’s
ENDEAVOR. All three were built by Peterson Builders in Sturgeon Bay,
Wisconsin. OCEANUS was the first of the three completed.
The Great Lakes have a long tradition of shipbuilding. The KNORR and
Scripp’s MELVILLE were built seven years earlier at Defoe Shipyard in
Bay City, MI on Lake Huron. The Peterson yard started in 1933 and
closed in 1998. It is now a condominium and real estate management
The OCEANUS’ delivery cruise was a working cruise. Vaughn Bowen’s
chemistry group used it as an opportunity to take radio-isotope water
samples down through the Great Lakes. It was a good opportunity to try
the winches while the shipbuilder’s representative was available to make changes.
The conception and preliminary design of the OCEANUS class was done
even before the KNORR was built by Jonathan Leiby, WHOI’s staff naval
architect. John Gilbert Naval Architects of Boston was hired to
develop the contract design, and Leiby was WHOI representative during
construction at the yard.
Gene Gisslisson (Capt. US Coast Guard, Ret,) was hired as delivery
skipper at the suggestion of the shipyard’s because of his knowledge
of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. David Scott (WHOI
Assistant Director for Administration and a former Navy Captain) and
Robertson Dinsmore (former US Coast Guard Captain) were the mates.
Alden Cook and Tom Lyon were the technicians and radio operators. Jon
Leiby was Chief Engineer and Harry Oakes and Charles Clemishaw were
assistants. John Burke and Linda Graham were the scientists. I went to check out the 3.5 and 12 kHz echo sounding systems, and incidently
had the fun of being the cook.
We arrived in Sturgeon Bay on October 24th, 1975. The Door County
peninsula is beautiful fruit growing country, and a popular resort.
The Peterson Builders yard is on the north side of the bay and canal
cutting across the peninsula.
We made two day trips through the canal out into Lake Michigan doing
speed runs and equipment testing. We departed on October 28th. As
an economy, the ship was not finish painted in the yard, only the base
Dimetcote zinc primer was applied, giving it an ashen red hue. We
passed under the Mackinaw Bridge early the next morning into Lake Huron.
Director Paul Fye boarded the ship using the J. W. Westcott water taxi
service in Detroit late on the 29th. Three water sampling stations
were taken in Lake Erie.
We entered the Welland Canal early in the morning of the 30th. Jack Burke picked up some nice old millwork dunnage on the control lock
entering from Lake Erie. In visiting with a line handler at the
locks, Alden Cook asked how the water moved from one lock to the
next. The explanation apparently was not clear, then in a burst
of insight, Alden summed it up succinctly by saying “Oh, going
down the seven locks is like taking a bath in the same water
Water sampling continued with five stations in Lake Ontario. There
was a throttle linkage problem which occasioned dropping anchor in
the St. Lawrence Seaway. Further down river, we noticed that oil
was leaking from a crack the wall of a fuel tank later determined
to be caused by the “flutter” of a strut supporting the propeller
The only drydock available was the Dominion drydock at Levis (across
the river from Quebec City) which the ship entered on November 4th.
It is a massive granite-walled graving dock. OCEANUS looked like a
toy in this 1,100-foot long, 130’ wide, and 36’ sill height chamber.
It took half a day to pump it out.
On November 15th the cruise resumed with Dick Haedrich, Pamela Polloni,
Don Mann and Julie Palmieri joining the science party. They had the
benefit of Gus Ocampo as cook for that leg. Harry Oakes became chief
engineer. Jon Leiby went back to Sturgeon Bay for the WECOMA’s trials.
The OCEANUS arrived in Woods Hole on November 22nd after a 2,064 miles
12 November 2011
Last updated: November 16, 2011