You Missed Your Chance to Buy an Oceanographic Institute


Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) will be switching hands. HBOI was found by Seward Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, in the mid 1970’s. The campus is located a couple hours north of Ft. Lauderdale. A colleague of mine from Alabama referred to HBOI as the Woods Hole of the south. You probably don’t know HBOI but you will definitely recognize their submersibles (above), the Sealink I & II. Yes there is two of them. Unfortunately, I can’t tell them apart any better than Mary Kate and Ashley. The subs are unique in that they have 360 degree view through the clear acrylic bubble. Contrast this to the portholes on most subs like the Alvin. Of course, this also limits its dive depth. I have found memories of the Sealink as my first.

HBOI has seen some tough times, a new generation of benefactors, a more competitive research environment , and two hurricanes, forcing staff cuts including some really great scientists as well as consideration of selling off part of the equipment like the Sealink and land. Florida Atlantic University will step and take control bringing $44.7 million initially and $8.5 million per year afterwards to repair both the aging fleet and buildings.  “The acquisition helps turn FAU, the Boca Raton-based public school that serves Broward County, into a more serious research university, adding $16 million a year in grant money.”

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

3 Replies to “You Missed Your Chance to Buy an Oceanographic Institute”

  1. I was out on the Seward Johnson with the Sea-Link this past week, and I heard that NONE of that FAU budget includes any money for research, the ship or the sub. So unless the NOAA OE and NSF funding situation improves, there’s a good chance the deep-sea research community could lose an invaluable tool.

  2. That’s very interesting. I also heard previously through the grapevine that HBOI was looking to offload the ships and subs. It will interesting nevertheless what will happen to the fleet under FAU guidance or somewhere else.

  3. What’s a bit more worrisome to me is whether the FAU administration has a clue about how they plan to run a marine research arm. Unlike WHOI (or even RSMAS here in Miami), both of whom have decades of experience with this sort of thing, it takes a certain university administration mindset to make a marine science division work, with all of the quirks that come with them and make them such wonderful places. I simply hope that FAU is going into this with both eyes open, so that in another year or two we won’t hear about the dissolution of HBOI altogether.

    On THAT Friday happy note… off to play with the fishes.

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