The R/V Wecoma, the standard bearer for the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s programs for deep sea oceanographic research, was towed away from its berth at HMSC and out to sea Wednesday, enroute to Ensenada, Mexico. There it will be cut up into scrap. A serious crack in her hull was not cost effective to fix and so it was decided that her sister ship, the Oceanus, based at Woods Hole near Boston, would replace her.
After the transfer of scientific equipment, computers and other necessities for oceanographic research from the Wecoma to the Oceanus, the Wecoma was lassoed by a heavy tug and was hauled out and under the Yaquina Bay Bridge which the ship saw for the first time in 1976, when it began its symbiotic career with humans at HMSC.
The Wecoma sailed mostly in the eastern Pacific, occasionally venturing out as far as the Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti and Guam, as far north as the Bering Sea off western Alaska and as far south as Peru. The Wecoma was the platform for scientists to study ocean temperatures, chemistry, salinities and dissolved oxygen, all critical to understanding ocean fisheries and sea-going mammals. The ship was also a launch pad for what are called “gliders,” robotic underwater watercraft that glide back and forth over vast areas of ocean terrain, recording data which is transferred to scientists on the surface. The Wecoma most recently retrieved many seismographic devices from the ocean floor off Washington and Oregon that recorded seismic activity along the famed Cascadia Subduction Zone. It is the subject of much scientific interest and concern. Marine geologists at OSU recently issued the results of an 11 year study suggesting that the subduction zone has a 40% chance of causing a large earthquake and resulting tsunami over the next fifty years. Wecoma’s successor, sister ship R/V Oceanus, will certainly be picking up where the Wecoma left off at closely monitoring seismicity off the Oregon Coast.
A well assembled and eminently readable history of R/V Wecoma’s service to ocean sciences at Hatfield Marine Science Center can be found on the internet on the HMSC website. The synopsis is the product of much research and collation by HMSC marine scientist Jane Huyer, a frequent sailor on the Wecoma, herself pursuing a myriad of seaward scientific missions.
Here’s the link to her story of R/V Wecoma’s contribution to the advancement of ocean sciences. Click here.