Rick Spinrad speaking at event
photo by Pat Kight/Oregon Sea Grant

On March 23rd, 2012, Rick Spinrad joined Bob Houtman, NSF Section Head- Ocean Sciences Division;  Sabah Randhawa, OSU Provost and Executive Vice President; Rob Munier, WHOI Vice President;  Marine Facilities and Operations; Mark Abbott, Dean, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; and John Byrne, OSU President Emeritus, CEOAS Past Dean; and others in Newport, Oregon to bid thanks and farewell to the Research Vessel Wecoma, and to welcome R/V Oceanus. The following is from Rick Spinrad’s remarks at the “retirement” event.
Let’s do some time-traveling.

Looking up at ship, OSU flag
Pat Kight/Oregon Sea Grant

It’s November 3rd , 1976,  6:04 in the evening. Less than 24 hours earlier, Gerald Ford and Bob Dole won Oregon, but lost the Presidential election to a toothy peanut farmer from Georgia. From a pier in Newport, Oregon, the still-shiny, brand new R/V Wecoma cast her lines and set out for a short cruise along the C-line to test gear in preparation for the upcoming long cruise off of Peru. The official ship’s log for that coastal jaunt is hardly a page-turner: they consumed 5278 gallons of fuel, 3600 gallons of fresh water, 25 gallons of lube oil (and although it was not recorded as such, an unknown volume of 95% laboratory-grade ethanol).

Improbably, the most noteworthy development was in the ship’s laundry; the log reads  ” The shipping ring on the laundry washer has broken. This item permitted partial use of washer in rolling ship operation. ”  In other words, the agitator moved with the movement of the vessel. Gotta love that kind of resourcefulness.

The only research-relevant note in the log: “scientists have a very good procedure set up for launching and recovering the nephelometer under positive control.  I feel it is much more satisfactory than our close quarter R/V YAQUINA operation.”  So we knew the new ship would be an improvement over our older vessel.

How telling that was, in terms of the next 35 years of research that would be conducted aboard this wonderful vessel. The ship’s crew included Captain Linse, Chief Mate Tony Loskota, Cook Tom Kluttz (incidentally, my wife, Alanna, still uses Tom’s recipe for macaroons  – *provided below –  best in the world ) and AB John Keiper. The scientific crew was led by Ron Zaneveld and Hasong Pak, with a rowdy bunch of techs and students: Bob Kaupaun, Bob Bartz, Jim Kitchen …. and one long haired, banjo playing graduate student whose name was misspelled on the manifest as Rick Spinrod.

I had the pleasure of being on the Wecoma for 53 days, off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Peru.

The Wecoma at seaAfter 1976, and for the next 3½ decades, the R/V Wecoma served as host to an oceanographic hall of fame.  OSU’s researchers filled the bunks: Chief Scientists with the names of Smith, Huyer, Carey, Pearcy, Kulm, Caldwell, Schrader, Miller, Zaneveld, Dymond, Gordon, Pak, Keller, Heath, Small, Lilley, Paulson, Prahl, Collier, and no doubt many others, just up to the 1986 period when the ship was laid up for repairs. And that’s just the Beavers.  Consider this list of other Chief Scientists from that same period: Barber, Cox, Knauer, Lorenzen, Bruland, Wyrtki, Knox, Murray, Weiss, Martin, Hickey, Brown, Beardsley, Winant, Irish, Karl, Robison, Packard.  Believe me, this is impressive to people in the marine sciences.

Wecoma was witness to discoveries that changed the way we think about our world, including how upwelling drives coastal productivity and fisheries; the magic of El Nino; the sheer power of deep-sea vulcanology; and understanding the complex nature of how the interactions of the ocean and atmosphere affect our weather and climate.

Not to mention those Nobel-laureate-worthy discoveries of the real-time full water column monochromatic specific beam attenuation coefficients – conducted by the most preeminent optical oceanographic team in the universe: Spinrad and Zaneveld, (OK, Zaneveld and Spinrad!) If you want to know details,  let’s meet at the Beanery.

Seriously, the world is unquestionably a better place because of the service this ship, her crew, scientists and land-based staff have provided  – for longer than many of us have been alive.

The name Wecoma, I propose, might be an acronym for “With Every Cruise, One Meaningful Accomplishment.”

It’s not easy to say goodbye.  The “retirement” event was a pretty emotional moment for many of us.

Wecoma is a star.  She was a workhorse, a transport, a world-class lab, and, for many of us at some point in our lives – even if was after a night at Anna’s bar in Callao –  she was our home.

Pat Kight/Oregon Sea Grant

But this is also a wonderful time, as we welcome the R/V Oceanus into our OSU family.  We can only imagine the discoveries and revelations that this new vessel will help us attain. Understanding the mysteries of ocean acidification, the complex microbial networks that define the foodweb of the seas, the ever-more intricate definitions of the four-dimensional structures of ocean dynamics.  The OCEANUS will be our tour guide to the next generation of oceanography.

Recently I was enjoying a drink with an old friend of mine who said he couldn’t have been more delighted to see the Oceanus come to OSU.  He went on to add that our legacy of transdisciplinary research and scientific accomplishment couldn’t be better suited to Oceanus’s capabilities.  That friend is Bob Gagosian, the former Director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  We should feel good about that. I can’t wait to see what we do with our new ship!

The R/V WECOMA has sailed her last cruise for Oregon State University.  The last sample’s been drawn, the last station taken, the last watch retired.  The horizon will be her home, her legacy will be her name.  Research Vessel Wecoma, we wish you fair winds and following seas.


bonus : recipe from the Wecoma

Coconut-crusted round cookie*Tom’s Macaroons

Stir together:

1-1/2 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons flour (matzoh flour works as well)
dash of salt
6 heaping cups shredded coconut

Beat until stiff :

6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla

“Fluff in” sugar mixture with egg whites. Be sure to stir the ingredients carefully to keep the air in the egg whites.

Put oil on your hands and loosely roll the dough into balls.  The oil makes the dough slip off your fingers.  Don’t press too hard or handle too much.

Place on heavily sprayed cookie sheet , or use parchment paper.

Bake 350 degrees for about 15 minutes –  watch them carefully!

Makes 20


bonus question:
What are the original meanings and origins of the words  “wecoma” and “oceanus”?


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7 thoughts on “R/V Wecoma Send-Off (plus . . . a Recipe)

  1. Wecoma – from the Siletz Tribe, “big waves”

    Oceanus – from Greek mythology, “a Tiatn who rules over the sea that encircles the Earth”

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  4. Pingback: Pacific fisheries science: from the Albatross to the Wecoma | Carmel Finley

  5. With a remarkable history, it’s a shame that the Wecoma was retired. However, I’m sure Oceanus will have an equally lengthy and stellar career. Cheers!

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