Jon White – From the President’s Office: 11-11-2019

2019-11-12T16:29:41+00:00 November 12, 2019|

Veterans Day Meanders

Imagine yourself in 40oF seawater in the North Sea, wearing a hard-hat dive suit. With near-zero visibility, you feel around a live sea mine to carefully locate the fuse mechanism that must be delicately removed to deactivate the mine and prevent catastrophic damage to ships and death and injury to passengers transiting the area during World War II. This was the work of Eugene Haderlie (biography), who, after his heroic experiences as a U.S. naval officer in the war, went on to become a renowned professor at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University in Monterey, CA. During the decades of his academic career, Dr. Haderlie conducted groundbreaking research in the Monterey Bay and along the California coast and was a brilliant instructor to hundreds of students. This included several naval officers like myself, who had the opportunity to take his class on biogeochemical oceanography while at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. I spent several surreal Friday mornings in waist-deep tidal pools identifying and examining various species of plants and animals, including brilliantly colored crustaceans, nudibranchs, and cephalopods that inspire wonder with their beauty and distinctiveness. These classes were a far cry and a long way from Dr. Haderlie’s work along the beaches of Normandy neutralizing explosive devices while under enemy fire just before the D-Day invasion, but to students who knew just a smattering of the wartime experiences that led to his love for the ocean and his lifelong pursuits to better understand it, they were made all the more inspirational.

On Veterans Day, I reflected a bit on Dr. Haderlie, as well as the many men and women who have been part of the U.S. military’s effort to better understand the ocean for national security reasons but who have also done so with the full knowledge that this increased understanding would benefit our ocean and our planet in untold ways. Whether in uniform, as a civil servant or contractor, or as a research scientist or technologist at an institution supported by military research grants, thousands of individuals have made profound contributions to our ocean knowledge and the future health, sustainability, and prosperity that it will hopefully enable. So from the late Dr. Haderlie to today’s young Sailors who are learning to operate an autonomous vehicle that can explore the bottom of the ocean and find mines (originally designed at a COL member institution supported by a grant from the Office of Naval Research), I say thank you! Thank you for your service to our nation and to our ocean. Bravo Zulu!

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