The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI, acronym pronounced /ˈhi/ HOO-ee) is a private, nonprofit research and higher education facility dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering and to the education of marine researchers. Established in 1930 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it is the largest independent oceanographic research institution in the U.S., with staff and students numbering about 1,000. On October 1, 2015, Mark Abbott became the institution's tenth president and director.[1]

The Institution is organized into six departments,[2] the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research, and a marine policy center. Its shore-based facilities are located in the village of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, United States and a mile and a half away on the Quissett Campus. The bulk of the Institution's funding comes from grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation and other government agencies, augmented by foundations and private donations.

WHOI scientists, engineers, and students collaborate to develop theories, test ideas, build seagoing instruments, and collect data in diverse marine environments. Working in all the world’s oceans, their research agenda includes: geological activity deep within the earth; plant, animal, and microbial populations and their interactions in the ocean; coastal erosion; ocean circulation; ocean pollution; and global climate change.

Ships operated by WHOI carry research scientists throughout the world’s oceans. The WHOI fleet includes two large research vessels (Atlantis) and Neil Armstrong , the coastal craft Tioga, small research craft such as the dive-operation work boat Echo, the deep-diving human-occupied submersible Alvin, the tethered, remotely operated vehicle Jason/Medea, and autonomous underwater vehicles such as the REMUS and SeaBED.

WHOI offers graduate and post-graduate studies in marine science. There are several fellowship and trainee-ship programs, and graduate degrees are awarded through a joint program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or by the Institution itself.[3] WHOI also offers other outreach programs and informal public education through its Exhibit Center and summer tours. The Institution has a volunteer program and a membership program, WHOI Associate.


R/V Atlantis, the first research vessel operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In 1927, a National Academy of Sciences committee concluded that it was time to "consider the share of the United States of America in a worldwide program of oceanographic research." The committee's recommendation for establishing a permanent independent research laboratory on the East Coast to "prosecute oceanography in all its branches" led to the founding in 1930 of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.[4]

A $2.5 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation supported the summer work of a dozen scientists, construction of a laboratory building and commissioning of a research vessel, the 142-foot (43 m) ketch Atlantis, whose profile still forms the Institution's logo.[4]

WHOI grew substantially to support significant defense-related research during World War II, and later began a steady growth in staff, research fleet, and scientific stature. Over the years, WHOI scientists have made seminal discoveries about the ocean that have contributed to improving US commerce, health, national security, and quality of life.

In 1977 the institute appointed the influential oceanographer John Steele as director, and he served until his retirement in 1989.[5]

On 1 September 1985, a joint French-American expedition led by Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution identified the location of the wreck of the RMS Titanic which sank off the coast of Newfoundland 15 April 1912.

On 3 April 2011, within a week of resuming of the search operation for Air France Flight 447, a team led by WHOI, operating full ocean depth autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) owned by the Waitt Institute discovered, by means of sidescan sonar, a large portion of debris field from flight AF447.[6]

Awards issued

B H Ketchum Award

The B H Ketchum award, established in 1983, is presented for innovative coastal/nearshore research and is named in honor of oceanographer Bostwick H. "Buck" Ketchum. The first recipient was Edward D. Goldberg in 1984.

Henry Bryant Bigelow Medal in Oceanography

The Henry Bryant Bigelow Medal in Oceanography was established in 1960 in honor of the first Director, biologist Henry Bryant Bigelow. Recipients have been:[7]

  • 2004 David M. Karl (Professor of Oceanography, University of Hawaii) – for "his contributions to microbial oceanography, especially the development and leadership of long-term, integrated studies of chemical, physical, and biological variations in oceanic environments."
  • 1996 Bill J. Jenkins (Senior Scientist, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry, WHOI) – for "his outstanding contributions to the development of the tritium-helium dating technique and its application to problems in ocean physics and biology and geochemistry, as well as his exceptional character and selfless dedication to the advance of science at WHOI."
  • 1993 Robert Weller (Senior Scientist, Physical Oceanography;Director, CICOR; WHOI)
  • 1992 Alice Louise Alldredge (University of California, Santa Barbara) and Mary Wilcox Silver (University of California, Santa Cruz) – for “their creative contributions to biological and chemical oceanography, particularly in demonstrating the importance of ‘marine snow’ as a major contributor to the vertical flux of particulate matter throughout the worlds oceans.”
  • 1988 Hans Thomas Rossby (University of Rhode Island) and Douglas Chester Webb (Webb Research) – for “Their creative contributions to ocean technology and oceanography, particularly in the development of the SOFAR float and advancing out knowledge of Lagrangian ocean dynamics.”
  • 1984 Arnold L. Gordon (Columbia University) for his “dedication in completing the Antarctic Circumpolar Survey”
  • 1980 Holger W. Jannasch (WHOI) – for his “creative contributions to marine microbiology by providing us with an understanding of the fundamentals of microbial processes in the sea and the dynamics of oceanic food chains.”
  • 1979 Wolfgang Helmut Berger (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego) – for his “creative contributions to paleoceanography by opening the doors of perception on the controlling factors governing carbonate sedimentation in the oceans, and for providing us with a unifying conceptual model for interpreting the geological evolution of ocean basins.”
  • 1974 Henry M. Stommel (WHOI)
  • 1970 Frederick J. Vine (WHOI) – In recognition of his “imaginative and sound contributions to man’s understanding of the formative processes active within the earth.”
  • 1966 Columbus O'D Iselin (WHOI)
  • 1964 Bruce C. Heezen (WHOI)
  • 1962 John C. Swallow (WHOI)
  • 1960 Henry Bryant Bigelow

Research fleet


WHOI operates several research vessels, owned by the United States Navy, the National Science Foundation, or the Institution:

Small boat fleet

WHOI operates many small boats used in inland harbors, ponds, rivers, and coastal bays. All are owned by the Institution itself.

  • Motorboat Echo – 29 feet long (mainly used as a work boat to support dive operations, also the newest small research craft at WHOI)
  • Motorboat Mytilus – 24 feet long (mainly used in water too shallow for larger craft and is a versatile coastal research boat)
  • Motorboat Calanus – 21 feet long (mainly used in local water bodies such as Great Harbor, Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay)
  • Motorboat Limulus – 13 feet long (mainly used to shuttle equipment to larger craft and as a work platform for near-shore research tasks)
  • Rowboat Orzrus – 12 feet long (mainly used in harbors and ponds where motor craft are not permitted)

Underwater vehicles

Alvin (DSV-2) in 1978

WHOI also has developed numerous underwater autonomous and remotely operated vehicles for research:

  • Alvin (DSV-2) – human-occupied vehicle, the Institution's most well-known equipment
  • Deepsea Challenger – human-occupied vehicle designed, field-tested, and later donated to the WHOI by Canadian film director James Cameron[8]
  • Jason – a remotely operated vehicle (ROV)
  • Sentry – an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and successor to ABE
  • Nereus – A hybrid remotely operated vehicle (HROV); lost on 5/10/14 while exploring the Kermadec Trench.[9]
  • Remus – Remote Environment Monitoring UnitS, an autonomous underwater vehicle
  • SeaBED – an autonomous underwater vehicle optimized for high-resolution seafloor imaging
  • Spray Glider – a remotely operated vehicle, used to collect data about the salinity, temperature, etc. about an area
  • Slocum Glider – another remotely operated vehicle, with functions similar to the functions of the Spray Glider
  • CAMPER – a towed vehicle used to collect samples from the seabed of the Arctic Ocean
  • Seasoar – a submarine towed by a ship
  • TowCam – a submarine with cameras that is towed by a ship along the ocean floor to take photographs
  • Video Plankton Recorder – a submarine with microscopic camera systems, towed along by a ship to take videos of plankton
  • Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE) – an autonomous underwater vehicle

See also


  1. ^ "President and Director". whoi.edu. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved 23 April 2017. 
  2. ^ "Departments, Centers, and Labs". whoi.edu. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "Ensuring the future of ocean science". whoi.edu. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "History and Legacy". whoi.edu. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "John Steele – obituary". The Telegraph. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  6. ^ In search of Air France Flight 447 Lawrence D. Stone Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences 2011
  7. ^ "Award Recipients [Henry Bryant Bigelow Medal in Oceanography]". Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved November 29, 2016. 
  8. ^ "James Cameron Partners With WHOI". National Geographic. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "Robotic Deep-sea Vehicle Lost on Dive to 6-Mile Depth". WHOI. May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 

External links

Coordinates: 41°31′28.26″N 70°40′15.50″W / 41.5245167°N 70.6709722°W / 41.5245167; -70.6709722