RV Vema

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Name: 1923 SV Hussar
1934: SV Vema
1953: RV Vema
1982: SV Mandalay
Owner: 1923: Edward Francis Hutton
1934: Georg Ungar Vettlesen
1953: Columbia University
1982: Windjammer Barefoot Cruises
Operator: 1953 - 81: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory[1]
Builder: Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen, Denmark[2]
Launched: February 2, 1923[2]
Completed: March 1923
Identification: Official Number 7738383
Fate: inactive
General characteristics
Type: schooner
Tonnage: 585 GRT[2]
Length: 49.9 m (163 ft 9 in) (pp)[2]
Beam: 10.1 m (33 ft 2 in)[2]
Depth: 15 m (49 ft 3 in)[3]
Capacity: 72 passengers (as Mandalay)[3]
Crew: about 28 (as Mandalay)[3]

The research vessel Vema was a three-masted schooner of the Lamont Geological Observatory (now the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory [LDEO]), a research unit of Columbia University. The 202-ft. vessel, with her almost indestructible Swedish steel hull, became renowned as one of the world’s most productive oceanographic research vessels. The ship had been first sailed for pleasure under the name Hussar, and after its career as a research vessel entered a new career as the cruising yacht Mandalay.[2]

E.F. Hutton's luxury yacht, Hussar

Designed by Cox & Stevens and built in 1923 by Burmeister & Wain in Copenhagen for E. F. Hutton and his wife Marjorie Merriweather Post, the 585-ton luxury yacht Hussar had an iron-hull and was at its time the epitome of maritime luxus and glamour in its class.[1] In 1934 Hutton had built the Hussar (II) (later Sea Cloud), an even larger yacht than his first Hussar. In 1935, the Hussar was sold to Norwegian shipping magnate, G. Unger Vetlesen and his wife Maude Monell and renamed Vema. The Vetlesens spent many pleasurable days at sea.

Vema during WW II

During World War II, Maude Monell donated Vema to the American war effort. The vessel was put into service as a merchant marine cadet training ship. The Vema was first put to use patrolling coastal waters for the US Coast Guard.[1] Having lost her glitter the vessel patrolled coastal waters. Later served as a barrack and a training ship for the United States Merchant Marine. Assigned to the US Maritime Service Training Station on Hoffman Island, her sailing area was listed as 14,000 sqf.[4] After the war she was abandoned off Staten Island until "a captain from Nova Scotia" salvaged the vessel.[1] LDEO leased the vessel in 1953 and soon bought it for $ 100,000.[1]

Research Vessel Vema

Vema started circling the globe as the first of the Lamont Geological Observatory's research vessels. Displaying a black hull, it was used to collect samples of seawater and sediment cores, measure currents and heat flows, perform underwater photography and seismic studies, and map out ocean floors. The Vema was instrumental in the exploration of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.[5] During the seafloor explorations the Vema Seamount was discovered in 1959; the seamount is located in the South Atlantic about 1,000 km west-north-west of Cape Town, at 31° 38' S., 8° 20' E.[6] The Vema Channel is a deep trough in the Rio Grande Rise of the South Atlantic at 31.3°S, 39.4°W. Discovered during one of Vema's journeys, it has a depth of 4,646 m and a width of 18 km, serving as a conduit for the Antarctic bottom water and Weddell Sea bottom water.[7] The work on the ship helped to confirm the continental drift theory. By the time of her retirement in 1981, the Vema had collected data on a record track of 1,225,000 nautical miles.[1] Notable scientists who worked aboard the Vema include Maurice Ewing, Bruce C. Heezen, Ralph (Ralphy) Roessler, J. Lamar Worzel, Jack Nafe, and Walter Pitman, all of whose work was greatly facilitated by Marine Technical Coordinator Robert Gerard, who was responsible for the fitting and refitting of LDEO marine research vessels from the Vema through its successors, the Conrad, Eltanin, and Ewing, including the design and installation of numerous pieces of customized scientific measurement equipment critical to their research.

Cruising yacht Mandalay

The ship was refitted again as a cruising yacht for the Caribbean under the name SV Mandalay (also Mandalay of Tortola)[2] with a sail area of > 20,000 feet2.[3] The ship was operated by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises from 1982 until the operator went out of business in 2008.[8]

Other research vessels of the LDEO

  • RV Conrad, 1953–1981
  • RV Eltanin, 1962–1975
  • RV Ewing, 1988–2005
  • RV Langseth, 2006[1]


The Miramar Ship Index lists the vessel incorrectly as Verna instead of Vema.[2]


External links