The Museum

by Greg Cailliet with help from others (26 May 2016)

Greg Cailliet behind specimens in MLML museum. Photo by Jason Bradley

This is a compilation of input from many MLML faculty, staff and graduate students, all of whom were involved in one way or the other with the operation of the museum at MLML. This is organized in chronological order. Much of the information was taken from some NSF proposals in past years to fund expansion and improvement of the MLML Museum (now called the Marine Biology Collection or MBC). Unfortunately, none of these proposals were funded and the MLML Museum is as successful as it is, mainly due to the hard work and dedication of past and present faculty and graduate students.

Milos and others in old museum.

The MLML Museum is home to a herbarium collection of marine macrophyte (algae and plant) pressings, and many specimens of invertebrates, fishes, turtles, birds, and mammals. Much of this is in preservatives in jars, but there is also a fairly vast collection of dried specimens, bones, skins, and stuffed organism. This is a unique collection focusing on the biota of the Monterey Bay, collected during the last 50 years. It represents a thorough sampling of the flora and fauna of Monterey Bay and the larger sub-tropical and temperate Northeast Pacific region (Baja California, California, Oregon and Washington). It has proven to be a valuable research and teaching tool. Given the almost haphazard way in which the MBC was assembled, the procedures for accessioning, storage, care, observation, analysis, and loaning of MBC specimens have also been developed in an opportunistic fashion, and this will be part of the focus of this blog.

In 2009, many of the museum specimens in jars were used by local marine photographer, Jason Bradley, to produce some incredible images of deep-sea fishes and invertebrates (some images are interspersed in this blog). Jason has loaned MLML several large prints of these photographs and they hang in the hall near the Friends of MLML office (the Fangtooth, Anoplogaster cornuta), in the library (Krill, Euphausia pacifica, and the Longfin Dragonfish Tactostoma macropus), and one – a photograph of yours truly behind some jars of fishes in the museum – hangs above my desk in my home office. Jason Bradley Photographic is at P.O. Box 51621, Pacific Grove, CA 93950; phone: 818.415.2767.

The MLML museum collection has a long history, going back to the first days in 1965 when MLML evolved as a California State College (now University) marine station in the Beaudette Foundation building. The idea of keeping representative specimens of local and west coast organisms for use in teaching and research was initiated by early MLML instructors, including James W. Nybakken and G. Victor Morejohn. Both of these instructors had considerable experience with museum specimens for their research and teaching. Indeed, the organization of the early card catalogue system was initiated by these two faculty members, along with others who were guest instructors (e.g. Jim Jensen - U.C. Berkeley, Peter Moyle -U.C. Davis, and Edgar Yarberry - Hartnell College).

Galaraura rugosa collected in Hawaii. Collected by Judy Hansen.

Early Years

Phycology was first taught by Charles W. Bell (S.J.S.U.) in 1966 and later by Jim Jensen (U.C. Berkeley; Deceased), who is believed to have started the herbarium of pressed algae and some marine plants. Judy (Hansen) Johnson had a major role in the early herbarium collection at MLML. Judy was Jim Jensen’s TA. Jim was a traditional phycologist trained by J.F. Papenfuss from UCB, therefore, herbarium collections were of paramount importance in his classes. All students made class collections of 50 or more pressed/mounted local species from Monterey Bay. John Bell built a plant press dryer (the shape/size of a coffin) to continually dry the presses in the back of the classroom. The room smelled chronically like seaweed drying on the beach.

Judy curated the early herbarium collections. She used the labeling technique of the UCB herbarium and later that of Isabella A. Abbott (Hopkins Marine Station). Permanent herbarium specimens were mounted on 100% rag paper, therefore, should last for a 100 years. When Judy graduated in 1972, Sara Tanner and Lynn McMasters continued on with curating the herbarium.

John Hansen (FSU), Barry Turner, and Gary Davidson were the first graduate students of MLML in 1966 – working with John Harville. John worked on the boring shell symbionts/parasites of abalone with Jim Nybakken, and Judy believes that the large collection of abalone shells went into the invert collection. John and Barry worked closely with Vic Morejohn and Jim Nybakken in the early collection and accessioning of specimens of invertebrates, fishes, birds, and mammals.

Gary McDonald, who was a graduate student at MLML from 1970 to 1976 was put him in charge of the invertebrate collection by Nybakken after his first year, and he believes he was the first “official” curator of that collection. Shane Anderson collected a number of invertebrates for the museum during this time, including some during the R. V. Makrele cruise.

Deep-Sea skate. Photo by Jason Bradley

Octopus rufescens. Photo by Jason Bradley

Fishes and Vertebrates:

Victor Morejohn apparently started the MLML museum, mainly for vertebrate specimens to be used for teaching. Gary Kukowski contributed some of the fish specimens to the collection during this time, while both Dan Varoujean and Larry Talent also contributed specimens from their field sampling.

Birds skins (Anatidae) in a museum drawer. MLML has a fairly good collection of bird skins from collections throughout the years.

Dan Varoujean, having collected birds for the Biology Department museum at California State University at Fresno prior to coming to MLML, applied his experience under the tutelage of Victor Morejohn and collected seabirds from 1969 to 1972, with many of these specimens being put-up as study skins for the museum by students under the supervision of Dan and Victor.  Dan also collected Dall’s porpoise and retrieved marine mammal specimens that were cetaceans and pinnipeds found dead on the beaches of Monterey Bay. In 1971 Dan was awarded the salaried position of boat captain of the R.V. Orca and curator of the vertebrate museum. As curator, he continued to collect and prepare seabird and marine mammal specimens and prepared fish brought in by others for inclusion into the museum reference collection.

Dave Lewis said that his “recollections of his time as curator of the vertebrate museum at MLML are quite similar to Dan’s. He collected mostly seabirds and beach-cast marine mammals to add to the collection, maintained “The Boneyard” and provided skins and bones for Vic Morejohn’s marine mammals course. Dave said his “most difficult single assignment was to attempt to retrieve a rotting leatherback turtle carcass from the kelp bed off the DFG Granite Canyon lab (“I figured I could simply swim out, strap it to a dive mat and haul it in - I was lucky to just get the head!- Presumably it’s still in the collection.).”

In addition to the mostly humdrum duties at the museum, Dave performed necropsies for the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) on sea otter carcasses they provided, working with Morejohn and Jack Ames.  They quickly established that several of the otters had apparently been hit by boats, based on the obvious blunt trauma and consecutive propeller slash marks.  Their CDFG technical report was already in press when Jack, performing one last necropsy of a boat-battered otter, noticed a tiny serrated tooth fragment deep in one of the “propeller” slashes.  The fragment proved to be from a Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias), and they had to scramble to amend their report accordingly.



This was the decade during which new faculty were added at MLML and they had an influence on the MLML museum.

Photo by Jason Bradley

Tommy W. Thompson, from the University of Wisconsin, was added to the MLML to serve as the diving safety officer, the marine botany faculty member, and the MLML Sea Grant coordinator. Bette Nybakken recalls that he went on sick leave for the 1974 academic year she was hired to teach phycology for the spring and fall semesters. Bette had students make collections both semesters and accessioned some of those specimens for the Herbarium. And, she says “the herbarium was just one large cabinet in the classroom that year.” Sara Tanner was her TA both semesters, and, Jim Harvey was one of her students.

When Mike Foster came to MLML from CSU Hayward in 1976, Lynn McMasters was his T.A. for 2-3 years and added to the herbarium. Mike notes that Jim Norris added Gulf of California specimens, and Mike added pressed specimens of species from southern California and Puget Sound.

Gary McDonald continued to curate the museum until he left to work at U.C. Santa Cruz in 1976. Curation of the invertebrate collection was passed on briefly to Kathy Mawn, and then John Cooper (unfortunately now deceased) took over and had that job for some time.

Gary provided a photo he took of the museum in April 1973, with a hand-held camera without a flash. So, it is not very sharp, but it is all we can find. In it, the formalin room is at the left rear, the fish collection in cabinets is in the aisle at right rear, the invertebrate collection in cabinets is at right & out of frame. The gray/brown cabinet at center rear might be the algae collection, but he was not sure.

The old museum. Photo by Gary McDonald.

James W. Nybakken always had an active interest in this collection. Between Jim’s and Greg Cailliet’s interests, there were many contributions, especially deep-sea midwater and benthic organisms, mainly from class cruises aboard the various research vessels available at MLML. The museum has a fabulous collection of deep-sea invertebrates and fishes (see also M. Eric Anderson’s comments later), some of which are fairly rare, and these have been used often by both MLML and outside researchers.

Gregor M. Cailliet started at MLML in the fall of 1972, and had experience with teaching and research collections of invertebrates and fishes at UCSB during graduate school. So, it was easy and interesting for him to take on the MLML museum fish collection. One of his first graduate students, M. Eric Anderson, took over as curator of the fish collection in 1973 and continued in that role until he graduated in 1977. Eric recounts that “At the start, the research collection consisted of less than 200 lots, the teaching collection was about 40 lots, and we had no dry skeletal, otolith, or larval material. The research catalogue was a card file started by Victor Morejohn and was a unique ecological system in which a specimen’s habitat or community was identified followed by a numerical indication.”

Eric’s research centered on midwater trawling in Monterey Submarine Canyon to attempt to keep mesopelagic critters alive in aquaria for study. He built a small midwater trawl with a special cod end to buffer the effects of hauling and was rather successful with some animals (midwater eelpouts, snailfish, one octopod, and shrimp). In addition, a lot of fish and invertebrate species from the Canyon were added to the museum from this effort, all trawled from MLML’s little tugboat, the R. V. Artemia (sometimes also known as the ST-908, its original name at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), and the Good Ship Lolipop, for its multiple colors).

Codium fragile collected at Catalina Island by Kathy Casson, determined by Sara Tanner

Botryoglossum ruprechtiana collected by Mike Foster.

With Greg Cailliet and John McCosker’s support and enthusiasm, Eric was mentored also by the curators at the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), Bill Eschmeyer and Tomio Iwamoto. Because of this, his objective as student curator was to build the research collection in terms of species and localities. This was possible through our own collecting and engaging in specimen exchanges with other museums, notably the British Columbia Provincial Museum. Specimens also were donated by collaborative scientists like Edgar Yarberry, John McCosker, and Bob Lea.

Eric also added that “A huge amount of enthusiasm and help in supporting my desire to build the fish collection goes to fellow students Brooke Antrim, Dave Ambrose, Rich Kliever, Gary McDonald, Ed Osada, my late wife Karen Anderson, and needless to say Greg Cailliet for his vision and financial support from some of his grants to expand the museum holdings. Thanks everyone, some great memories!”

Jaeger prepared by Lynn McMaster

Brooke Antrim remembrances: From the moment I arrived at ML in the fall of ’73, I knew I wanted to be involved with the Museum in whatever capacity I possibly could. At that time Gary McDonald was the Invertebrate Curator and M. Eric Anderson was the Fish Curator. The Museum was truly a cramped room of probably less than 400 sq. ft. housing 2 working desks, 2 prep sinks, 1 exhaust hood (story to follow), probably 2 cabinets of accessioning supplies and the rest of the space held all of the liquid preserved invertebrate and fish specimens. After three years of helping Eric with his duties when I could, in ’77 I became the Fish Curator when Eric left to pursue his doctorate.

Brooke continues: These were truly thrilling, exciting and vibrant years. The Collection was in its infancy, we were establishing protocols for preservation and accessioning, specimens were being donated by professional colleagues and other research institutions and almost every research cruise that put to sea provided some specimen that would end up being a new addition to the Collection.   There was a sense of exploration that I can only imagine 19th century explorers must have held as they sought to sample ecosystems never touched by man. In fact during these years, the mid-water and deep-sea collection cruises were so diverse that several invertebrate and fish specimens resulted in new species descriptions. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that there was an adrenaline rush every time the net broke the surface of the water as to what secrets it would reveal.

Victor Morejohn continued to have a role in adding specimens of marine reptiles, birds and mammals to the museum. Lynn McMasters recalls taking Ichthyology and Birds and Mammals from Morejohn during one of the summer semesters in the early 1970s. She recalls preparing a bird study skin (probably still in the teaching collection) and a fish skeleton prep. The students got to take the skeleton preps home, but Lynn’s was eaten by her cat. Some students over the years used the “cat-ate-my-bone-prep” excuse for not turning theirs in for credit. Lynn was lucky that she got credit before her cat destroyed hers.


Roger Helm reports: “I was the Marine Bird and Mammal Curator/Lab Tech from 1977-78.  I shared space in that dark, dank, and stinky museum in the original building with John Cooper (a really nice human being, may he rest in peace) who was the Invert Curator.  The job was 1/4 time with the other 1/4 serving as the TA for Vic Morejohn's Marine Vertebrate and Marine Birds and Mammals classes.  The essence of the vertebrate museum tech job was to head out at all hours of the day and night to retrieve dead birds and mammals, or parts thereof. When I arrived at the lab, my mentor for this job was a big-hearted gal who was so focused on delighting Morejohn with carcasses and specimens that she didn't have time for much else.  I rapidly decided that if I was going to do this work I was going to stay upwind, dedicate a set of clothes and rain gear to the effort, and not miss a shower.”

Roger continues to say “It’s fair to say that Mike Rowe, star of the TV show Dirty Jobs, had nothing on MLML’s vertebrate museum techs.  I wonder what he would have made of the opportunity to dissect a dolphin whose innards had been baking inside their thick blubber layer for days. While those dissections were not so sweet, they were a fresh ocean breeze compared to acquiring samples from a disintegrating 30-ton gray whale rolling around in the surf. Fooling with formaldehyde, mucking around in the bone yard, and attending to less than fresh flesh and oozing body fluids was not for the squeamish. For me it was great fun running around the bay and addressing fresh carcasses and when they weren’t fresh I attacked them with the battle cry Remain Upwind!”


Chauliodus macouni. Photo by Jason Bradley

Anoplogaster cornuta. Photo by Jason Bradley.

Post-Earthquake Trailers and Warehouse in Salinas (1989-2000)

In 1989, MLML and the space that housed the Museum were destroyed during the Loma Prieta earthquake. Miraculously, almost the entire MBC and associated card catalog databases were salvaged. The specimens that survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake were removed by a group of students lead by Aaron King, who used a tractor to move boxes of specimens from the museum site on pallets. These were moved first to a building at the former Spreckles (Sugar) Plant, and then to a site in a warehouse leased by MLML and SJSU on Vertin Avenue, in Salinas, that was near the SJSU satellite campus that became the temporary home of MLML.

Squid, photo by Jason Bradley.

Erik Cordes recalls: “My first job at Moss Landing was during an undergraduate internship in 1993. I spent many an hour hidden away in Vertin organizing the collection from the U. S. Navy-funded dredge waste disposal study. It was where I first discovered the vast array of undescribed invertebrate species in the deep sea, a finding that changed my path and sent me into the deep sea (sometimes literally) for the rest of my career.”

In the mid-1990s, the collection was moved from Salinas to MLML’s Norte site and in some temporary buildings near a surf shop. Several former MLML graduate students had recollections. Ned Laman adds that the move to Norte was a big group effort, with many days of driving back and forth through the lettuce fields of Salinas with lumber, cutting up plywood, then anchoring the shelving system. Both Ned and Erik recall some good lunches at the Central Texan in Castroville on the way between Salinas and Moss Landing. Then the specimen jars had to be prepared for transport to the shore. Ned recalls that “moving day from Vertin Avenue was one where we called on “all hands” of the core grad student body at that time and had a dozen or more people over there putting jars in 55 gallon barrels with vermiculite.” Bill Leopold and Julie Neer also remember helping them, and others, pack the jars in 55-gallon drums with vermiculite, and then move the museum collection from the Vertin Avenue warehouse to the trailer at MLML Norte.

Wade Smith reports that he was also one of the students who helped with the next transition, moving samples from the trailer down at Norte to the new lab, and topping off fluids regularly before and after the move. He said “I recall doing quite a bit of packing and organizing in the trailer there on the beach with Jeff Field, perhaps with Joe Bizzarro, and they were involved also packing up inverts as well as fishes.

Before the move to the hill, Wade recalls that some of the Ichthyology Lab members spent a lot of time working in the little bit of space that was available in the museum trailer at Norte. He reports that “the fumes were horrible in that room. Jeff, Joe, and I had a class project on shiner perch and pipefish diet and we did all of our dissections and work up in that room.” He thinks that was part of their project in Steven Morgan's Larval Ecology class. So, even that full, stinky (mammal, formalin, alcohol odor) room saw a fair bit of use. Wade transitioned to working at the present site on the hill during the move in 2000.


New Moss Landing Hill Site Building (2000-present)

Sea otter skeleton prepared by Jim Curland, in the new museum.

When we moved into the new, and present, MLML building up on the hill, the MBC was subsequently transferred to a dedicated 4-room museum on the new MLML campus. The specimens were organized into specific locations, helped a great deal by new compact shelves that had been installed in the southern end of the museum space.

Wade Smith stated: “I always enjoyed the teaching collection. A lot of samples were in poor condition after years in Salinas. It was exciting to see the nice racks go into the museum space (as it was open/empty space for quite awhile after we moved in).”  He, and others, shelved the jars in the new museum on the hill (both invertebrates and fishes). Wade and Joe included some new specimens from Baja California. And, when the Pacific Shark Research Center was established, Dave Ebert's presence ramped up collection efforts and accessioning new specimens.

Since that time, growth of the MBC has accelerated due to use by researchers and students from MLML and beyond. It is used annually in 14 organism-based marine science courses at MLML. Data on fishes and invertebrates from numerous deep-sea and benthic trawling class cruises since the mid-1980s are stored on and available from the SIMoN (Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network, of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) – see here for the Sanctuary SIMoN species database and associated data bases.

 Specific voucher collections are also housed in the MLML museum. The include the following: – ACOE Collection, Cephalopod Beak Collection, ESI Reference Collection, Farallones Collection, Herbarium Collection, Hodgson Collection, Invertebrate Collection, Kaiser Refractories Collection, PG&E Collection, SWOOP Reference Collection, and the Slattery Collection. These can be found at the MLML Digital Commons.

Shark specimens, sea otter pup, and jars of specimens in new museum.

Since our rebuilding, however, MLML researchers have also created four unique MBC research collections of worldwide importance: 1) the Global Kelp Archive; 2) the Pacific Shark Research Center's Chondrichthyan Taxonomy Collection; 3) a larval fish collection stressing local species; and 4) a collection of fish otoliths, cephalopod beaks, and other things useful for identifying prey of predators like larger fishes, birds, and mammals. These collections are the basis for long-term research programs that facilitate the research objectives of MLML faculty and students alike. As such, the MBC currently has two purposes: (1) maintenance and improvement of specialized research collections vital to studies of marine biodiversity, evolution, ecology, and conservation; and (2) maintenance and improvement of broad teaching collections essential to the organismal-training of marine science students.

Chris Rinewalt started putting the collection into a software program (Excel) that made it accessible, as Wade recollected wanting to do earlier. First, he and Aaron Carlisle went through all the class cruise (and other sample) data sheets for the SIMoN project. He said that sorting through the small binders of the old sampling sheets in the museum area was difficult. It involved trying to decipher the handwriting of students from 20+ years previous, along with their vague descriptions of sampling locations (or converting LORAN-C to Lat/Long), and scanning every available document (CTD casts, maps, drawings, etc.) into the database for eternal preservation. Unfortunately, the MBNMS folks at SIMoN did not use those metadata when they published it as an Access database on their website. And, now the important data are there, in both formats (Excel and Access) and available to all.

View of a portion of the new museum.

Also, when Chris Rinewalt worked in the museum while TA'ing for Ichthyology, he recalls many hours in the museum with the radio on, cataloging specimens and accessioning new entries. There apparently had been quite a back up from the trailer days and a lot of catch-up work had to be done. He reports seeing things he'd never seen before or since. He was very curious about the parts of whales and other mammals that were saved in 5-gallon jars. Chris’ main role was to update the museum collection in a state-of-the-art Excel spreadsheet. And, now those collection data are posted online, which comprises quite an upgrade. When Greg Cailliet retired in 2009, Scott Hamilton became the Ichthyologist, and has been active in getting the fish collection maintained and improved.

And, also in 2009, many of the museum specimens in jars were used by local marine photographer, Jason Bradley, to produce some incredible images of deep-sea fishes and invertebrates. Jason has loaned MLML several large prints of these photographs and they hang in the hall near the Friends of MLML office (the Fangtooth, Anoplogaster cornuta), in the library (Krill, Euphausia pacifica, and the Longfin Dragonfish Tactostoma macropus), and one – a photograph of yours truly behind some jars of fishes in the museum – hangs above my desk in my home office. Jason Bradley Photographic is at P.O. Box 51621, Pacific Grove, CA 93950; phone: 818.415.2767.


Jim Harvey re-activated interest in improving and adding to the bird, mammal, and reptile holdings of the Museum during this period. In the past several years, Catarina Pien has been doing a stellar job of improving the entire collection through maintaining fluids in the jars, photographing specimens, and making sure that the accessioning process and final resulting database are efficient.

Present Activities in the MLML Museum and How It Functions

Portion of the compact shelving in the new museum that hold the specimens in fluid.

Natural history collections (i.e. the collection and preservation of organisms whole or in part) are invaluable resources for biological research and teaching. They are snapshots of nature in space and time, and researchers from a variety of biological fields, from taxonomy to biogeography and paleontology, rely heavily on these collections to guide investigations into the evolutionary history of organisms and species.

Moreover, most ecological studies require that researchers not only have a good understanding of species identification, but that they know how to distinguish individuals of one species from another. It is natural history collections that facilitate proper species identification as well as an understanding of the spatiotemporal variability in organism form and condition. And, this natural history and taxonomic capability is something that is central to the education of both undergraduate and graduate students at MLML.

Improvements are occurring in the museum, including: 1) reorganization of specimens, primarily using compact storage units that more efficiently house specimens; 2) improving the care of specimens, including renewing preservation fluids, 3) updating of computer files on the holdings; 4) taking digital images of MBC specimens; and 5) maintaining a freezer storage unit of tissues for DNA sequences. This is presently being done by staff (Jocelyn Douglas) and student curatorial support, presently Catarina Pien and Heather Fulton-Bennett.

The MLML Museum contains at least 11,000 accessioned biological specimens, with ~75% housed in research collections and ~25% in teaching collections. The following is brief a taxonomic breakdown of accessioned specimens within the five taxonomic groupings representative of our faculty research and educational specialties.


Odonthalia floccosa collected by Mike Foster.

Sea otter skull photographed by Catarina Pien.  Example of the photographs of each specimen in the museum that will eventually be on our museum website.


In addition, there are otoliths from ~ 165 species of fishes, used for prey identification purposes, numerous lots of fish larvae, and a newly initiated frozen tissue collection.

This blog was a edited version, so if you want to read a full accounting of the history of the MLML museum by Greg Cailliet, please use this link.

The Others That Turned 50

By Jim Harvey (20 May 2016)

So as I have been preparing these blogs, I have been noting other marine labs and entities that also were celebrating 50 years of existence. It became obvious that many other marine labs originated at about the same time that Moss Landing Marine Laboratories began. So I went to the NAML site. MLML is a member of the National Association of  Marine Labs, and I went to as many of the listed websites as I could to determine the time they began. I did not include the state or federal labs (e.g. NOAA, EPA, CDFW, etc.) in this discussion. Here is a graph of the results (see list at end of blog):

Number of new marine labs timeline


What you see is that the first marine lab in the United States (at least for the ones that are members of NAML) was the Marine Biology Laboratory, started in 1888. MBL is located in Woods Hole Massachusetts.

Marine Biology Laboratory located in Woods Hole, MA along with many other marine institutions, including WHOI.

Some other notable marine labs that were established at the onset were: Hopkins Marine Station (1892), Friday Harbor Laboratories (1903), Scripps Institute of Oceanography (1905), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1930). MLML is the second oldest marine lab on Monterey Bay.

Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories (University of Washington)

You also will  notice from the graph that about the time MLML started there was an explosion in the number of marine labs. In fact, of the 51 marine labs I investigated 17 (33%) were started in the decade of 1960 to 1969.  The other marine lab that began in 1966 when MLML was formed was Shoals Marine Laboratory that serves Cornell and the University of New Hampshire. You might also notice from the table at the end of the blog that we are the median lab (25 labs started before us, 25 after us), so we are not your "average" lab.

Many other things began around 1966, 50 years ago, and I have compiled a few of interest:

1. National Sea Grant


2. Charlie Brown Christmas


3. Grateful Dead (apparently first played as Grateful Dead in San Jose, CA)


4. Superbowl




6. Penthouse magazine

(I don't think I should have a picture here)


7. Star Trek


So MLML began when many other marine labs began, and when a number of other iconic institutions showed up.

Let me know what I missed.



List of the 51 marine labs I used to determine a timeline.

1 Marine Biology Laboratory 1888
2 Hopkins Marine Station 1892 Stanford University
3 Marine Science Institute 1900 University of Texas
4 Friday Harbor Laboratories 1903 University of Washington
5 Scripps Institute of Oceanography 1905 University of California, San Diego
6 Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology 1912 University of Hawaii
7 Chesapeake Biological Laboratory 1925 University of Maryland
8 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 1930
9 Oregon Institute of Marine Biology 1931 University of Oregon
10 Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences 1932
11 Duke University Marine Lab 1938 Duke University
12 Virginia Institute of Marine Science 1940 William and Mary
13 Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science 1943 University of Miami
14 Gulf Coast Research Lab 1947 University of Southern Mississippi
15 Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory 1949 Florida State University
16 Grice Marine Laboratory 1955 College of Charleston
17 Mote Marine Lab 1955
18 Bodega Marine Laboratory 1960 University of California, Davis
19 Dauphin Island Sea Lab 1963 Alabama's Marine Science Institution
20 Hubbs SeaWorld 1963
21 Darling Marine Center 1965 University of Maine
22 Telonicker Marine Lab 1965 Humboldt State University
23 Hatfield Marine Science Center 1965 Oregon State University
24 Wrigely Marine Science Center 1965 University of Southern California
25 Shoals Marine Laboratory 1966 Cornell and University of New Hampshire
26 Moss Landing Marine Laboratories 1966 California State Universities
27 Skidway Institution of Oceanography 1967 University of Georgia
28 Chincoteague Bay Field Station 1968
29 Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce 1969
30 Baruch Marine Field Lab 1969 University of South Carolina
31 Center for Marine Science 1970 University of North Carolina Wilmington
32 Marine Laboratory 1970 University of Guam
33 Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution 1971 Florida Atlantic University
34 Kewalo Marine Laboratory 1972 University of Hawaii at Manoa
35 Coastal Studies Lab 1973 University of Texas Rio Grand Valley
36 Bigelow Laboratory of Ocean Sciences 1974
37 Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience 1974 University of Florida
38 Long Marine Lab 1976 University of California, Santa Cruz
39 Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies 1978 San Francisco State University
40 Louisiana University Marine Consortium 1979
41 Coastal Studies Center 1981 Bowden College
42 Keys Marine Lab 1983
43 Blakely Island Field Station 1984 Seattle Pacific University
44 Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station 1985 University of California, Berkeley
45 Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute 1987
46 Marine Laboratory 1997 Roger Williams University
47 Alaska Sealife Center 1998
48 Cal Poly Center for Coastal Marine Sciences 2001 California Polytechnic State University
49 Nantucket Field Station 2004 University of Massachusetts
50 Vester Field Station 2007 Florida Gulf Coast University
51 Sitka Sound Science Center 2007











MLML Computing

By Bill Broenkow (13 May 2016)

Dr. Bill Broenkow with charts and maps. Notice the slide rule, which dates the picture.

This account tells the story of my involvement in introducing computers to Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. There's not much logic or plan in how this came about. In those days (the early 1970s) things just happened as teaching and research evolved. Furthermore I had no formal education in computers or electronics, but in the beginning no one did.

My first experience with computers occurred as a graduate student when I modeled the pH of seawater using an iterated method that could be accomplished only by computer. At the University of Washington this would be on an IBM 7070 locked away somewhere in the only computer room on the upper campus. I wrote the program in FORTRAN on 141 punch cards, each being a single statement or numerical constant, placed them in a cubby hole and returned the next day either to find print outs or error messages. (Interestingly, today with atmospheric CO2 levels rising, processes controlling pH are a major concern.) It took many walks up the hill to get it right. That's how it was done in 1963. That was my total computer background before coming to MLML.

After arriving at MLML in the fall of 1969, I found myself to be the computer expert. My courses in chemical and physical oceanography used lots of calculations, done at UW by tables, such as Knudsen Tables to determine seawater density from salinity and temperature, then further tables to calculate pressure effects and finally the geopotential height from Nansen bottle stations and on to geostrophic currents. These required two way interpolations trig and log tables. Tedious. In the late 1960s this began to change with the use of the UW IBM, because computer compatible algebraic equations were then being developed at various marine institutions to eliminate the table work. However during my first years at MLML I taught with appendix tables in 'The Oceans' the standard marine science text of the day. And what's even more archaic, I taught the use of the slide rule.

HP-35 Photo credit: The Museum of HP Calculators (

In 1972 the scientific world was revolutionized by the HP-35 calculator. This was big. And its cost of $395 did not stop more than 100,000 being sold during its first year. The first calculator in space. I still own mine. No more trig tables, no more slide rule, but still at MLML we used those density tables. Two years later the $795 HP-65 programmable calculator arrived. Now oceanographers without access to mainframes could write our own programs. I spent many wonderful hours programming salinity, density, thermometer corrections, celestial navigational calculations, a never-ending list of computer applications. I have the little magnetic cards holding these ancient programs and the calculator still runs.

At nearly the same time a bigger revolution occurred: the first real, desktop computer, the Wang 720C Calculator the size of a suitcase. It was a calculator in name only so that the hierarchy of managers in computer science departments would not need to authorize their purchase. But it was a true computer. I cannot recall how I managed to get Director Hurley to pay the $7000, but we soon had one at Moss Landing. We established a computer lab, really only a small room with a 24/7 sign-up sheet. It had a real computer language to use and teach. Now this wasn't FORTRAN, more like machine language. The Wang 720C used an assembly programing language; some codes from the keyboard some by switches. The 2048-byte ferrite core memory held the computer 'steps' (up to 1984 of them) loaded top-down in the core memory data were loaded bottom-up and too much of one overrides the other. Today it's hard to imagine that this small system was useful.

The Wang 720C September 1973 Photo credit: The Old Calculator Museum (

The Wang 720C September 1973. The first computer at MLML. Capable of 1984 computing steps with an operating system consisting of a 64x32 diode ROM and a ferrite core RAM memory of 64x32x8 magnets. Input by cassette tape, single keys for the low level commands, output by Nixie tubes or IBM Selectric typewriter. The military still uses ferrite core memory in radiation hardened satellites.

This sudden burst of technology required some effort on my part to learn how computers really work. I thought I should know something about the machine language instructions that the CPU chips processed. I bought a HeathKit microprocessor trainer, wired it up, took the self taught course, wrote the required number of assembly language programs, passed the test, and realized that I really did not want to become an assembly language programmer.

This era was called the Computer Revolution for good reason. Suddenly the little folk had enormous computation ability and it didn't take long for more friendly scientific computers to come along. Ah... 1974: the HP-9820 with an algebraic programming language in RPN (reverse polish notation), paper tape output, magnetic carder reader and expensive RAM expansion modules , mathematics and peripheral control ROMs. All very exciting to me and another $7000. I had to get one of course.

In the early 70s the MLML physical oceanography group made the first synoptic survey of salinity, temperature and nutrient distributions in Monterey Bay. This work came to the attention of Bob Wrigley at NASA Ames Research Labs in Mountain View. Bob was a pioneer in the mid 70s in measuring phytoplankton concentrations in the ocean and was using his new hand held radiometers to do this. Simple, eh? Phytoplankton rich waters are green, poor waters are blue, wheat fields are amber. He wanted surface truth data in the Bay like he had done over agricultural areas and asked us to make chlorophyll measurements as he flew his radiometer. I had no idea where this new (to me) remote sensing would lead. He kindly provided me thermistors, fluorometers and strip chart recorders and supported my research assistant, Carl Schrader. We measured chlorophyll and suspended sediment concentrations, Secchi disk depths and compared ocean color to a Munsell color chart.

Until 1975 we used Nansen bottles but things changed when began using a Plessy 9400 conductivity, temperature, depth, CTD, profiler. No more hydro-casts. Data were recorded on the XYY chart recorders provided by Bob. Then we (yes, some poor graduate student) would pick off conductivity and temperature values from the graph and calculate salinity, density and dynamic height anomaly. We entered these into HP-9820 computer files to store the data for further processing. Not much later we added a Teletype printer with paper tape punch ($700).

But the big event in my computing and scientific life began in early 1977 with the HP-9825 desktop computer ($5900). This was a very mature machine: the HPL computer language, a qwerty keyboard, 16 kbytes memory, a plotter, disk drive, paper tape printer, and to do the science through data acquisition it had plug-in interface boards: 16-bit parallel, and the HP-IB interface that connected directly to the HP instrumentation. This computer was a revolution to engineers and scientists and sold over 28,000 through its 5 year life. With the 9825 we could record digital data directly from my CTD profiler using HP frequency counter, programable switch and voltmeter. The HPL language and HP-IB instrumentation were to shape my future.

The HP-9825, June 1977 Photo credit: The Museum of HP Calculators (

The HP-9825, June 1977. This revolutionary computer launched innumerable projects at MLML. First our work with Dennis Clark's CZCS satellite surface truth experiment, later our CTD, current meter and ocean profiling instruments with John Martin's Vertex project. Ultimately our association with Dennis Clark led to MLML's continuing work (1997-present) with the Marine Optical Buoy, MOBY.

After we had worked with Bob for a year or more, he thought it would be a good idea for me to see how the experts were developing surface truth measurements for the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) to be launched on the Nimbus 7 satellite. He paid for my October 1977 flight to Galveston, Texas to join the RV Gyre cruise headed by Dennis Clark. Dennis was a research scientist from NOAA's the World Wide Weather Center in Suitland Md who established a comprehensive program to measure spectral water-leaving radiance or simply the color of light reflected from the upper layer of the sea. These are the definitive surface truth data from which the CZCS scans would be corrected for atmospheric attenuation. He was using his brand new, state of the art spectral-radiometer. He lowered these to several depths producing radiance values at 80 wavelengths. To eliminate wave noise many scans were made at each depth. This is a data intensive process and to do this Dennis was using his brand new HP-9825!

Upper: Wang 720C ferrite core memory 2048 bits. You can count them. February 1973. Lower: HP-9825 16 Kbyte dynamic RAM memory card provided by Dennis Clark for his CZCZ work. January 1977. A big advance: 64 times the Wang memory.

He had a complicated program: two instrument vans, an electronics engineer and several technicians to handle the instruments. I was a complete stranger to this work and to Dennis who I had not met until the day I arrived. As a guest, I stayed out of his hair, but observed his preparations. One of his technicians was assigned to use the 9825 to acquire data from the radiometer. After two days I saw that he was having trouble programming the computer. I offered to help, explaining that he would be dependent on the way I stored data in my data base, Dennis thought this over a day or so and agreed; “OK”. As they say, the rest is history.

I had a week at the dock to learn about his instruments and needs for data processing. After three days at sea on the Gyre I was still working on the programs but at the first station (October 25, 1977) my programs brought in the data, did the averaging, applied the calibrations, and plotted the corrected radiance spectra. At that time I adapted the way we had been organizing our oceanographic data, what we now call MLDBASE, just a computer filing system to hold the radiance data and identifying (metadata) information.

I worked with Dennis for four years during the CZCS era learning about satellite oceanography from Dennis' NOAA and NASA and university colleagues. There was much to learn. One occasion was especially memorable. On a trip to the Visibility Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I met Ros Austin who was developing image processing software to display and interpret data from the CZCS satellite. He had DEC VAX computers with satellite data stored on huge disk drives. The programs Howard Gordon from University of Miami developed to remove the atmospheric haze were really complicated. Howard's work developed over several years. At Scripps that day Ros started the image processing program, we went to lunch and late in the afternoon the corrected map of 'water-leaving radiances' and computed chlorophyll concentrations appeared on a black and white display.

Between 1979 and 1996 my group participated in John Martin's highly successful VERTEX program. The National Science Foundation called John's discovery that iron is a limiting nutrient as one of the most important oceanographic discoveries of the century. During this time Dennis funded one graduate student (Jeff Nolten and later Richard Reaves) to work on the CZCS project. He kept me in a holding pattern until he could launch his Marine Optical Buoy, MOBY, project.

VERTEX-3 November 1982. Mark Yarbrough on the RV Cayuse with our CTD data acquisition using our beloved HP-9825 and a lot of fancy equipment. Mark now leads the MLML MOBY operation in Honolulu.

Before the earthquake (October 17, 1989), John Martin introduced me to David Packard (founder of Hewlett-Packard) who saw we were still using an old HP-9825. I think John suggested that I might work with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to display weather and ocean conditions at the Aquarium. Mr. Packard gave me a tour of the Aquarium and his mechanical tide predicting machine. We discussed how we could measure waves, tides and weather to display as an exhibit. As a result he provided the HP computers (HP-9826), data acquisition instruments (HP-3497), weather station, current meter and ocean buoy. Somehow along the way I asked if he could provide a second computer to share the programming load. That's how I got (and still have) an HP-9816. I picked it up at the Aquarium one day in 1985. The box was addressed to Mr. Packard who had paid list price out of his own pocket. The ocean and weather station began operation in March 1986 and we continued operating it until 1995 when the U.C. Santa Cruz REINAS project assumed its operation.

After the earthquake Dennis designed the MOBY prototype. MOBY was to be an autonomous buoy moored near Lanai, Hawaii. This first-of-its-kind system provides daily 'water-leaving' radiance measurements used to calibrate ocean color satellites whose sensors slowly degrade in time. Luckily for me, at that time I had some brilliant graduate students: Mark Yarbrough, Mike Feinholz and Richard Reaves. Mark had designed and built our new Integral CTD Rosette System. Once again I asked Dennis to carefully consider if he would task us the job of building, programming, calibrating, launching, operating and reducing data from this device. He was truly impressed with Mark's mechanical, electronic and organizational skills, Richard's programing skills with low level assembly language, and Mike's methodical calibration methods. He took us on... again.

The computer world changed dramatically over this period. At the temporary MLML campus in Salinas we used a MicroVAX II to act as a local area network server and distributed computer facility to the several portable buildings. Various labs used computer terminals to use the MicroVAX for various tasks as well as for local e-mail. During a visit with us, Dennis' Miami colleagues installed their state of the art CZCS image processing software on our MicroVAX. My student, Ed Armstrong, used this FORTRAN program called DSP for his master's thesis work and later went on to use this experience at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

There was no Internet yet. And during this time personal computers evolved. Everyone used their PC or Macs. When the Internet finally arrived in 1998, I was asked what name to use as our Internet URL. Without direction from above I chose During the 'Salinas Marine Lab' years I discovered a life-changing programming language, MATLAB. We rewrote all of our HPL programs and our now extensive MLDBASE data into MATLAB and moved away from the VAX into the future, for us on PCs which ran MATLAB (but sadly, not on Macs at that time). With my students in my Satellite Oceanography class I rewrote the Miami DSP CZCS image processing program in MATLAB. The image processing that had taken hours at the VIS Lab ran in 5 minutes on our PCs.

The VAX is gone, October 2000. Stephanie Flora pulls the plug on our aged MicroVAX at MLML on the hill. The VAX had been used as our local network server since the days at the Salinas Marine Lab. All of this is hidden now.

For years I taught MS-263 'Application of Computers in Oceanography'. Early on it was with the Wang, later with HPL, FORTRAN, then MATLAB. At a MATLAB conference in San Jose, I lamented that no basic programming text with MATLAB was in print. A publications representative casually said why don't you write one. I did. It was rejected. I persisted and then self published; selling my CD book on Amazon. 'Introduction to Programming with MATLAB for Scientists and Engineers' went viral. It sold several hundred copies.

MS-263 Applications of Computers in Oceanography, December 1998. Salinas Marine Labs (The Salinas trailers). Here we have descended to using PC clones in the SML computer lab. However, now we have discovered MATLAB!

It is now 41 years after I met Dennis on the Gyre. Mark Yarbrough and Mike Feinstein continue to operate Dennis' Marine Optical Buoy MOBY in Hawaii, Stephanie Flora performs the complex data processing from the autonomous buoy in MATLAB on her Mac. She posts the data on the Internet for use by the world-wide remote sensing community to atmospherically correct worldwide ocean color imagery from a series of satellites that evolved from CZCS. The data are stored in an advanced MLDBASE format, but our programs can still read those data taken on the Gyre and my hundreds of CTD profiles and current meter records. Though I retired 12 years ago, I still use MATLAB (on a MacBook). Not long ago I dusted off our CZCS programs and ran the MATLAB version I had named PSD (DSP spelled backwards, or with tongue in cheek, perhaps meaning 'Pretty Simple Dennis'). It ran in 10 seconds.

Look what has happened since the heady days of the Wang 720C. My simple benchmark program tells the tale of increasing speed of computers I have used over the years. Sadly, I didn't run the benchmark on the Wang which may have been faster than on the HP-9825.

Cray 1 1976 0.01 FORTRAN (Los Alamos)
HP-9825 1977 1 HPL
VAX 11/780 1979 1.5 Unix/FORTRAN (NOAA MD)
HP-85A 1979 80 BASIC
HP-9826 1985 9 HPL
Micro VAX II 1985 0.31 Unix/FORTRAN
Toshiba 3100 PC 1986 0.3 MATLAB
Toshiba 4400 PC 1992 0.04 MATLAB
VAX 4000 1992 0.19 Unix/FORTRAN
Toshiba 4800 PC 1994 0.012 MATLAB
MacBook 2009 0.0000073 MATLAB
Cable tray at the new MLML on the hill at Moss Landing. December 1999. This is how we connected to the outside world of the Internet. Most of this fiber-optic and “10-Base T” twisted pair infrastructure is hidden in four equipment closets and the network room in the basement.

I am now long departed from the computer scene at MLML, where the Internet and laptops reign supreme. Now everyone owns a super computer or two, not only on the desktop, but as smart phones in their pocket. I don't know what computers large or small that MLMLers now use. The only thing I may recognize at MLML today are in the hallways. When the architects consulted me about distributing Ethernet cables throughout the building I suggested cable trays along the hallways. Look up and you may see them now.

Epiloque from Jeff Arlt (iTech MLML):

Two of the 6 computing and network racks in the MLML server room.

As of May, 2016 those Ethernet cables continue to carry 1s and 0s up and down the hallways of MLML. The ‘core’ of the network has continued to evolve and is now made of glass, fiber-optic cables, that connect the Cisco network switches in closets in each of the building wings back to the server room at 1 gigabit per second.

When MLML moved back to Moss Landing in 2000 the MicroVAX II was replaced by Sun Ultra Sparc servers that hosted the MLML web server and other servers supporting our connection to the Internet and communication with the World Wide Web. The computing environment continued to evolve over the years utilizing: Apple Xserve servers, HP dl360 servers to our present Virtual Computing environment based on a state of the art SpringPath Hyper-Converged computing environment.

SpringPath Hyper-Converged computing environment.

The network has evolved so that faculty, researchers, students, staff, and visitors can connect to the MLML campus network using any of their wireless or wired devices while travelling over the 1Gb connection to the CENIC CalREN, California Research and Education Network. Data, and beyond. Voice and video now run through those data cables that Dr. B. so ingeniously hid while also making them easy to access.





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Goodbye R/V Point Sur

By Kenneth Coale (5 May 2016)

R/V Point Sur off Moss Landing.

I was aboard from her first cruises out of Moss Landing in 1983, to her last cruises from MLML in 2014. Maybe that is why I was the scientist asked to speak at her farewell, and maybe this is also why I was so reluctant. She was in near perfect condition and not just from the looks of her. Recently rebuilt engines, engine controls, navigation, steering, electronics on the bridge, new crane on the bow, new trawl winch, paint on the decks, inside and out, new wastewater management system, air compressors, interior LED lighting, etc… There was little if anything that had not been recently refurbished. Stem to stern and keel to mast, she was fully equipped and had a full complement of tools in the main lab, electronics lab, boatswain locker and engine room and a full set of rigging gear for almost any over-the-side operation, safety gear, firefighting equipment, communications equipment and hundred of thousands of dollars worth of scientific equipment and instrumentation.


She had just completed two successful trips to the Arctic and one to the Antarctic and she was still among the most economical vessels to operate in the US fleet of research vessels for her size. Yet, MLML had received direction from the National Science Foundation to dispose of her.

I had served on the UNOLS Council (University NationalOceanographic Laboratory System is the non-governmental body that advises NSF regarding ship scheduling, fleet improvement and other matters related to the nation’s fleet of research vessels) for two terms representing an operating institution and was an active user of the MLML/NSF Research Vessel Point Sur. I had just completed two cruises on the study of methyl mercury in marine fog, and three cruises as part of an NSF sponsored Chief Scientist Training Program designed to encourage young investigators to use large marine facilities such as the R/V Point Sur. The UNOLS Council had recommended to NSF that she be retained. In spite of all of this, the NSF was experiencing heavy internal pressure, pressure from OMB, a loss of facility funding due to an over commitment to cabled observatories and needed to get inventory off of their books. MLML was about to loose her flagship due to politics and failures in leadership, both at the local and national level. I was selected to give an overview of the scientific achievements that the R/V Point Sur had supported, but my blood was boiling and my heart had sunk. Yet this was no attitude in which to say goodbye, but what could I say?

My class had rigged flags from the bow, over the top of the mast and to the stern A-frame. There was food and chairs, tables and drinks. Former crew, scientists and dignitaries had assembled. Camera crews from KSBW and KION. Faculty from MBARI, MLML, NPS took their place and I was beginning to sweat about what I would do.

We heard from several speakers including Jim Harvey, Mike Prince, Stewart Lamerdin, Chris Scholin, Steve Etchemendy and then it was my turn.

“Thank you Mike, Stewart, Chris and Steve for this window into the past and the roots that this vessel has grown. These flags represent the affiliation and the heritage of our students, staff, faculty and colleagues over the years, many of whom have sailed on Pt. Sur. Not all flags would fit, the little ship is just not long enough.

But she is a treasure.

Before I get started, or loose my grip, I wanted to thank Dolly Dieter, Linda Goad, Rose Dufour, Jim Holik, Bob Houtman, Tim Schnoor , Jon Alberts, Annette DeSilva, and many others at NSF, ONR and UNOLS for giving us such a ride, and trusting us with a public asset that has delivered such a huge public benefit. I think that, for this, we can all be grateful.

Eleanor Roosevelt said many wise things. One was one my wife repeats:  Do something that scares you every day. Well, I have never retired a ship, and this may be one of those days.

I have spent some time on the Sur.   Cumulatively, it has been years.

And, I gotta say that without a crew this ship is just a hulk of metal and paint.

With every crew the ship gets better

And I have recently sailed with the best crew I have ever seen

Rick, Bobby, Loren, Alex, Scott, Jack, Olin, Tara, Stian, you guys are the best

No, I can’t let it rest.

Just because you are losing your jobs and your workplace, this is no reason to be sullen.

We did not make all this grub and grog,

Nor dress this ship in fancy flare

To hark back and pine away

‘Bout times gone by, days ill to bear

On those who sit to reminisce

Bout better days now times amiss

Just suck it up and take a piss,

Then get back down to business

This here event will require

That you all rise up and inspire

Give your arses some respect

And abandon ties to the internet

Now stand up from your reclined poise

And be prepared to make a noise

For this is no time for wallerin

Now is the time that we be hollerin

For the rest of this incantation

Will require participation”


The crowd rose, a bit perplexed, but all stood up

I then explained that we were going to sing a Shanty in a call-and-response format and I explained how the Shanty would work. I created cue-cards for their singing parts and had briefed my class ahead of time.


“ The Pt. Sur Shanty",

Farewell to Whiskey Sierra Charley, 2276


Call:                 In ’81, two ships were forged

Response:    Though the seas are rising

Call:                Cape Hatteras and Florida

Response:   Sail on Point Sur

Call:                To Carolina and Florida bound

Though the seas are rising

Call:                The restless ship came westward round

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                A purpose called, a resounding sound

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Carry scientists and crew around

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Who plumb the depths and scour the seas

Though the seas are rising

Call:                For clues to test hypotheses

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                From Aleutians, North to Bering Sea

Though the seas are rising

Call:                To Bransfield Straits and the Southern Lee

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Ten thousand souls she carried the lot

Though the seas are rising

Call:                To wonder why and ask why not

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Discoveries from her labs we see

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Have changed the course of oceanography

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Yet questions sought and some answers flee

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Still challenge both you and me

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                But leaders with their skulls so thick

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Can sink a vessel just as quick

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                As a reef that rose and claimed the hull

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Of Ocean Researcher and her souls

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Let your story be told dear

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Of a ship whose life did not end here

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                But one that sailed back out to sea

Though the seas are rising

Call:                And saved the earth from humanity

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                The time has come to bid farewell

Though the seas are rising

Call:                To a faithful ship who has served us well

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                We toast your service and loyalty

Though the seas are rising

Call:                And wish fair winds and a following sea

Sail on Point Sur

Response:   Sail on Point Sur, Sail On,… Sail On Point Sur, Sail On.”


I had positioned my student Alex, on the bridge and when the Shanty was over, Alex let off two short blasts on the ship’s horn, and everybody broke for drinks on the dock.

Cake for the Point Sur farewell. Cake by Tara Pastuszek

We did find a good home for the R/V Point Sur. Colleagues from the University of Southern Mississippi and the Louisiana Marine Consortium spent a couple of weeks loading and provisioning her for her second trip through the canal, back to the Gulf of Mexico, where she would be operated in support of science related to the Deep-Water Horizon blowout. The crew and scientists could not believe her condition and her provisions.

R/V Point Sur docked in New Orleans for Ocean Sciences (Feb 2016) after transfer to the University of Southern Mississippi. Photo by Ivano Aiello.

As she sailed from Moss Landing for the last time, she was flying two signal flags: Bravo and Zulu. Flown together these flags indicate “Job well done”.


R/V Point Sur sailing out of Moss Landing harbor for the last time, with two MLML Boston Whalers escorting her out. Photo by Andrew DeVogelaere.