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C. Dana Densmore papers

 Record Group
Identifier: MC-79

The C. Dana Densmore Papers consist of materials documenting his various cruises and scientific discovery during his career with WHOI. The collection includes cruise logs/diaries, scientific data records, photographs and some subject files.


  • 1957-2006

Language of Materials

The records are in



Open: materials are available for research.


Copyright: Permission to publish material from the collection must be authorized by the Institution Archivist.


5 boxes (3.25 lin. ft.)


The C. Dana Densmore Papers consist of materials documenting his various cruises and scientific discovery during his career with WHOI. The collection includes cruise logs, scientific data records, photographs and subject files.

Biographical Information

Charles Dana Densmore was born October 1, 1920 in Brookline, Massachusetts, to George Ellis and Florence Marshall Densmore. The youngest of three children, he grew up in Brookline and spent every summer with his family on the shores of Buzzards Bay. He attended the Fenn School in Concord, Massachusetts, and the Fountain Valley School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He returned to the east coast where, in 1940, he was hired by a New London lawyer who bought and sold yachts. "Quite by accident, the sea caught me." At the start of WWII he towed targets for the Coast Artillery at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. In 1943 he joined the Navy and served nearly three years in the South Pacific.

It was in New London, 1941, where he met his future wife, Jean Shipherd. Because of her sun-bleached hair, she was nicknamed "Whitie" by a one of the yacht skippers. After the war, Dana returned with Whitie to his childhood summer home of South Dartmouth. He worked as a carpenter and boat builder. With his "gallant wife raising a family single-handedly," Dana "pursued one lucky man's life of pelagic wanderings." Whitie died in September 2009. They were married for 66 years.

In 1956, his great friend, Jan Hahn, founding editor of Oceanus Magazine, introduced him to Columbus Iselin, then Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He hired Dana to work as a liaison between the crews and the scientists on the WHOI ships. From there, he became involved in the Physical Oceanography department. He spent the next twenty years doing research on the world's oceans. He worked on 17 ships from five countries for a total of more than 30 cruises.

Dana kept meticulous logs of his voyages with the Oceanographic and assembled a large collection of photographs of those trips. In 1995, Dana wrote the first of two books,


The collection has been divided into four series.

Custodial History

The papers were in C. Dana Densmore's possession until donated to the WHOI Archives.

Acquisitions Information

The papers were donated by C. Dana Densmore in two accessions in July and November of 2007 (acc. 2007-07 and 2007-11). Acc. 2007-11 included A-Boat folder and 23 personal logs that were photocopied and returned to Densmore's family. Acc. 2007-7 included an oral history transcript which was photocopied and returned to Densmore's family.

Related Material

Densmore's published books, "A-Boat: Six Oceanographic Cruises in the World's Biggest Ketch" and "An Irregular Sort of Life," along with three books he co-authored, are available through the MBLWHOI Library. Check the library catalog to access his journal articles. Two films are available in the WHOI archives of Atlantis II cruises 8 and 15. See AC-66 in the WHOI archives for scientific log data from the cruises represented in the papers. An interview by Frank Taylor with Densmore is available in the WHOI Oral History Project.

Processing Information

Third-level processing completed by Alexandra McCoy in June 2011. The papers were put into acid-free folders and boxes and labeled. Material on acidic paper was photocopied. Metal staples and paperclips were removed. The materials were then sorted and listed in series format.

A Guide to the C. Dana Densmore papers, 2011
Alexandra McCoy under the direction of David Sherman
Language of description
Finding aid written inEnglish

Repository Details

Part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Data Library and Archives Repository