The researchers discovered that oysters were dying from Dermo, a disease that becomes epidemic for certain ranges of temperature and salinity (see Oysters Revisited...). The study obviously required information about currents, tides, waves and the general oceanographic character of the Texas-Louisiana shelf waters. The immediate need for scientific data, and the anticipation of similar future opportunities, led Dr. Jakkula to propose the establishment of a Department of Oceanography. Aided by Dr. Claude Zobell, a collaborator on the oyster project from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California, Dr. Jakkula made a presentation to the A&M College Board of Directors on January 3, 1949 in support of a new department. With amazing administrative alacrity, the board approved the proposal on January 9, 1949, founding the Department of Oceanography with five faculty positions, a testimony to Dr. Jakkula's persuasive powers. The landmark decision recognized oceano-graphy as a distinct academic discipline and established the new department as the first of its kind in the United States.
With the new department in hand, an oceanographer had to be found to lead it. In the postwar 1940s, those few available had primarily been trained as meteorologists and wave forecasters as part of the war effort. Again Dr. Jakkula turned to Scripps for help, asking professor Harold U. Sverdrup and Dr. Zobell to recommend an appropriate person to recruit as the first Department Head. Professor Sverdrup suggested Dale F. Leipper and Robert O. Reid, both trained in the wartime meteorology programs at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Chicago, and more recently at Scripps. Bob Reid decided to forego administrative duties at the time, but in May, 1949 Dale Leipper visited College Station to be interviewed for the job by Dean M.T. Harrington, President Bolton and A.A. Jakkula. Leipper encouraged the college to "build a program with regional significance," and not just another campus department. Assured of such intentions, he accepted the job and moved with his family to College Station in August, 1949. He brought with him Lucy Booth, a UCLA graduate with a bachelor's degree in meteorology, to serve as department secretary. Thus Ms. Booth became the first employee with professional quali-fications in the Department of Oceanography at a time when few women pursued careers in science, especially at the all-male A&M College of the late 1940s.
The oceanography program began on the third floor of Bizzell Hall. Following the Scripps example, Dr. Leipper decided to use the remaining four faculty positions to cover the principal subdisciplines in oceanography. Dr. Jakkula said he would be pleased if a place could be found in the new department for John G. Mackin, a marine biologist who had played a key role in the oyster project. The geological post went to W. Armstrong Price, a prominent coastal geologist. Donald W. Hood, a recent A&M biochemistry Ph.D. with strong interests in the ocean, became the first chemical oceanographer. Leipper finally convinced Bob Reid to leave Scripps, take the remaining position, and share the physical and meteorological oceanography duties. Roger Revelle, then director at Scripps, engineered a last-minute effort to retain them, but Bob and Marjorie Reid arrived in College Station in January, 1951, just in time for a record freeze as a blue norther swept in. In an April storm, hailstones the size of golf balls damaged the Reid's car. The following summer set a record for the greatest number of days with temperatures above 100F. After that first year, the Reids must have wondered whether Revelle had been right. Forty-three years later, Bob is a Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M, still actively teaching and advising students in the department, and Marjorie is still wondering about the wisdom of leaving the Pacific Ocean behind.
Dr. Leipper taught the first official course, an upper-level introduction to oceanography, in February, 1950. About 54 students enrolled. The successor to that course, Oceanography 401, is offered every semester and is still popular, with 56 students currently registered.
The fledgling department quickly outgrew its two-room facilities. After a brief relocation to an old faculty home just south of G. Rollie White Colliseum, the department moved into the "Old Science" building, which stood on the site now occupied by the Biological Sciences building, across from the original Cushing Library. Old Science was in serious disrepair and in apparent danger of collapsing (Living Dangerously in Old Science), which is why, according to Leipper, they got all the space they requested - nobody else wanted Old Science.
From the beginning, the Department of Oceanography needed a sea-going capability to support its research program. Early in 1950, the Navy Hydrographic Office and the Office of Naval Research sponsored the first major research project, known by the Research Foundation as "Project 24," to make an initial hydrographic survey of the Gulf of Mexico. To support the necessary offshore measurements, the department established a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to use their 37-meter vessel Alaska, based in Galveston. Staff members Richard M. Adams, Kenneth H. Drummond, George Austin, Walter Lang and Pieter Groot were heavily involved with the early Gulf survey work. Also in 1950, a major industrial research project began with sponsorship from the United Gas Pipeline Company, which wanted to connect an offshore well to shore. The pipeline research, which required knowledge of currents, tides and the effects of winds on the continental shelf, grew out of a project started by consultants Warren Thompson and Paul Horrer at Scripps. Bob Reid also contributed to this effort before coming to A&M.
Soon after the inception of sea-going research by the department, the Navy offered a surplus 31-meter harbor tug named Albermarle if a crew could be found to bring her from South Carolina around to the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Homer L. Hadley of the Alaska and a small crew were dispatched and brought the tug safely to Galveston, but the scientists soon discovered that the vessel's huge engine occupied most of the space, leaving essentially no room for a laboratory. Worse yet, sea trials quickly showed that the tug was poorly suited for open-water service (see Tug Trials).
After the ill-fated tug trials in 1953, it was clear that a capable ship was needed. The Research Foundation was (and still is) governed by a large Board of Councilors drawn from A&M College, the public and industry. The extensive network proved fruitful, because one of the industry councilors had a ship that needed a new home. Robert A. Uihlein, Sr., vice-president of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company of Milwaukee, and his brother Erwin, president of the company, heard of the department's need and offered their 37-meter, three-masted sailing schooner Atlantic. Understandably wary of free boats after the tug experience, Dr. Leipper travelled to Milwaukee to inspect the vessel, which he accepted and pronounced "a very beautiful ship." Sadly, Dr. Jakkula died just prior to the acceptance of the vessel, but no doubt he realized that the impending gift held great promise for the new department. [34K].
The schooner indeed had an interesting history. She was designed by Gielow and Company of New York, built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company in 1923, and originally registered as the Moby Dick (a curious harbinger of her oceanographic future). The Uihlein brothers purchased the vessel in 1931 for use as a private yacht. In 1942, the U. S. Coast Guard commissioned her the Blanco, and she served during the war years on anti-submarine duty in the Caribbean. In 1948, the Uihleins reclaimed the vessel and rechristened her the Atlantic.
Once again, Captain Hadley was sent to fetch the new ship, aided by Mate Henry von der Hofen. They sailed the Atlantic from Milwaukee down Lake Michigan to Chicago, where the masts were unstepped and laid on the deck in order to clear the fixed bridges over the canal connecting to the Mississippi River. They navigated the river with only minor mishaps, arriving at Galveston on April 8, 1953.
[77K] On June 14, a grand celebration in Galveston marked the formal transfer ceremony, judging from the September-October, 1953 issue of The Wyatt Way, published by the Wyatt Metal and Boiler Works of Houston and Dallas. Raleigh Hortenstine, president of Wyatt Metal and also of the Research Foundation at the time, accepted the vessel from Robert Uihlein, who made the formal presentation on behalf of the brothers at a banquet given by them for the department faculty and staff and their families. Allan Shivers, Governor of Texas and also a councilor of the Research Foundation, was unable to attend, but Ike Ashburn, former Commandant of A&M College, officially represented the governor and proudly proclaimed the vessel the "Flagship of the Texas Navy." No one seemed troubled that the new flagship was lacking other ships to signal, the Texas Navy's fleet being in considerable decline. Undaunted, the Houston chapter of the Former Students' Association produced a Texas flag which Captain Hadley and Judy Davis briskly hoisted to the maintop. Culminating a fine day, the assembled dignitaries rechristened the Oceanography Department's new research vessel the A.A. Jakkula in honor of the man who had envisioned oceanography at Texas A&M and almost single-handedly made it a reality. [128K]
[77K] The Jakkula served the department until 1958, carrying out numerous surveys of the Gulf of Mexico. The crew motored the vessel during most of the research cruises, using the sails more for stability than propulsion. The original Krupp diesel, an enormous, slow-turning engine, was replaced with an equivalently rated but much smaller General Motors model that, according to Leipper, left the vessel underpowered and difficult to maneuver. Toward the end, the masts were taken out and, according to now-retired Professor Tak Ichiye, the ship was ungainly without the impressive sailing rig.
The yacht Jakkula still symbolizes the spirit and energy of the early Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M. The wooden minesweeper Hidalgo quietly replaced the Jakkula in 1958, and a surplus Army freighter named Alaminos in turn succeeded Hidalgo in 1963. Both of these vessels served the department admirably and set the stage for our present ship, the Gyre, but none of them, even with ample deck space, modern instrumentation and air conditioning, commands the panache and the romance that belongs to the A.A.Jakkula.
Oceanography, Texas A&M Universityrshatto@ocean.tamu.edu
Updated July 20, 1995