Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
As I approach the end of my fourth decade at WHOI, I have many memories involving Oceanus, beginning with her first arrival at the WHOI dock - participants in the maiden trip talking about touching 17 knots in trials (apocryphal?). It seemed to me that my programs often took her to the edges of her designed mission profiles. It seems odd to have her retiring before me. And I haven't had a mid-life rebuild!
I remember an April cruise in the late seventies to work southeast of Flemish Cap, very rough conditions that were a strain for her size. We persevered, although we had to run before the seas for a bit rather than heaving-to, due to the height and steepness of the seas. Notable in that cruise was tow-yo-ing a ctd over the stern frame from the 01-level hydrowinch in rather heavy conditions, with all available shockcord bundled to make a snatchblock damper for the slack moments as the ship pitched. As typical to her decades of fine crewing, creative solutions to keep the work going.
In the 1980's I undertook a series of ocean-crossing CTD sections, which certainly stretched the endurance limits for Oceanus on her subset. On one set I was privileged to save both Paul Howland and Mike Palmieri as Captain and First Mate. Supposedly, we were to work from Barbados to Walvis Bay, but some international intrigue had the Brazilian observer force a stop in Rio - with arrival on the first day of Carnival. We ended up trapped there for most of the week of the festival. My head hurts just remembering it! But the best memory of that extraordinary week was an evening spent aboard, having drinks with Mike and Paul, where they told tales of their early WHOI days as seamen. Its all a bit fuzzy, but one story involved a Punta Delgado, Azores, port stop where one of them drove back to the ship with the other strapped to a front fender like a prize after a deer-hunt.
Paul and Mike exemplify what makes a ship like Oceanus a powerful asset for those of us at WHOI. Their long service, and that of many other crew, enables them to understand the basic missions of the diverse scientific teams that come aboard, and make the ship support the work well. I will miss the Oceanus, the departure of a thread that runs through most of my career, but even more I will miss the comradery that working from a smaller vessel has always engendered.