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Allyn Collins Vine papers

 Record Group
Identifier: MC-01

The Vine papers consist of thirteen record cartons and several map folders that span the years 1937-1993. Files contain correspondence, manuscripts, notes, publications, brochures, proposals, blueprints, data, notebooks, maps and charts, photographs, handmade instruments (slide rules) and drawings. The materials represent the diversity and interdisciplinary aspects of Vine’s interests and projects during the course of his career at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and particularly his work with the Navy during and after World War II.

Any original arrangement that existed has been disturbed over the years. Many of the materials that Vine sent to the archives in the early 1980s, however, retain his original subject headings and comprise the first series, General Subject Files. This series was initially processed as the Vine papers, until the 1997 donation of materials from Adelaide Vine, which resulted in a revision of the first series and the addition of a second series.

The second series retains Vine’s original name for these files, Ships Subjects Files, and consists largely of 1997 accessions. Several files from these later accessions were integrated into the first series, including a binder of correspondence that had been separated from the correspondence in the first series. These first two series each contain subject groups, or subseries, and attempts were made to organize the papers and files into these subject categories that Vine had assigned to many materials. The correspondence, however, had been mostly kept and preserved in their chronological order in multiple binders.

Biographical information was organized as a third series. The oversized maps, drawings and plans that Vine sent to the archives in a map cabinet were sorted in 1998. Many maps were integrated into the map collection, and duplicates were weeded. A map folder containing oversized plans and drawings is housed in the map drawers. Visual materials were combined with the drawings to form a fourth series, Drawings and Visual Images. These images were removed from the Vine’s papers and housed separately as Vine’s image collection in the Archives photograph collections.

Each series has a more detailed scope and content note available with the box and folder lists below.

From the vast number of publications that Vine had collected over the years, over 140 WHOI technical reports along with Vine’s lending library of non-WHOI technical literature were added to the Data Library and Archives’ collection. Still others were retained in Vine’s papers because of the notations and comments Vine had made in them.


  • 1937-1998

Language of Materials

The records are in



Open: materials are available for research.


This collection is protected by copyright. Permission to publish material from this collection must be authorized by the Institution Archivist.


13 boxes (16.25 linear feet)


The Allyn Collins Vine papers consist of a variety of material types that represent the diversity and interdisciplinary aspects of Vine’s interests and projects during the course of his career at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and particularly his work with the Navy during and after World War II.

Biographical Note

Al Vine’s creative and innovative career reflects his interest and knowledge of science and engineering, learning early on how to design and construct instrumentation such as calibrating equipment for deep-sea gravity measurements.

Allyn Collins Vine was born June 1, 1914, to Elmer and Lulu Vine in Garrettsville, Ohio. He studied physics at nearby Hiram College, where he met his future wife Adelaide R. Holton, with whom he later had three children, Vivian, Norman, and David. After graduating in 1936, Vine earned a master’s degree in physics in 1940, and then was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1973 from Lehigh University. Vine first worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with his graduate advisor, Maurice “Doc” Ewing, during the summers of 1937-1939. Ewing’s group, which included Joe Worzel and John Brackett Hersey, went to sea on the research vessel Atlantis and participated in underwater photography and deep-sea seismic work.

When Al Vine made a permanent move to Woods Hole in 1940, the Institution was evolving into a year-round facility and rapidly expanding to engage in wartime research, due to dramatically increased navy funding. In those days, before intensive specialization, oceanographers shared their multiple talents to solve a problem. As Vine put it, “Columbus [ Iselin] would return from Washington on Thursday with a project, and we’d all work on it till it was completed on Monday.” He continued working with Ewing’s group, studying sound transmission in water and working closely with the submarine community during submerged sub testing and performance.

Al Vine and Ewing redesigned the bathythermograph (BT), an instrument that profiled ocean temperatures, for use in antisubmarine warfare, and helped to build hundreds of them for the navy. He increased the BT’s accuracy and reliability and improved its hydrodynamics so it could be deployed from moving ships to locate submarines. He also designed a stationary version for use by submarines to avoid detection. During 1944 he was involved in their installation and operational training at Commander Submarines Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) in Pearl Harbor. Many years later, in 1972, the Navy belatedly cited Vine’s contribution to the BT project, recalling “the savings of untold numbers of lives, and millions of dollars in ships and equipment,” for which he received the Navy Oceanographer’s Commendation. Vine’s connections with the Navy continued throughout his career.

In 1946 Al Vine was one of the oceanographers to make water wave measurements at the atomic bomb test site in Bikini for Operation CROSSROADS. From 1947-1950 he served half time as oceanographer to the US Navy Bureau of Ships, Sonar division, while still on staff at Woods Hole. On alternate weeks at Woods Hole he worked on underwater sound projects and on improving oceanographic equipment such as towed sonar and underwater camera gear. In 1951 Vine demonstrated the basic elements of an effective fish locator, by turning an echo sounding transducer on its side, and mounting it in a crude “fish “ so it could be conveniently towed. Vine also served as the Navy representative on the oceanographic panel of the Research and Development Board.

Vine worked closely with Brackett Hersey on building the groundwork for the American defense network, SOSUS. In 1952 Vine, Hersey and William Von Arx each presented a paper at a 3-day symposium, sponsored by the National Research Council, on needs for new and improved oceanographic instruments. Since practically all aspects of the instrumental needs were discussed, the symposium amounted to a short intensive course in modern oceanography followed up by a publication. 1 In 1956 Vine, along with senior oceanographer Bostwick Ketchum, served as a member of a committee of the National Academy of Sciences to consider the effects of atomic radiation on oceanography and fisheries. In 1957, he was part of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) inspection group that traveled to Naples, Italy, to acquire the bathyscaph Trieste . He also served as the WHOI representative for Project STAG (Subroc Technical Advisory Group) beginning in 1957. The first meeting’s objective involved the preparation of a report outlining the current state of sonar development with respect to the target location posed by Subroc, and indicating areas that required the most urgent research and development efforts.

In 1956, Vine devised the basic means of towing a string of thermometers from a ship. Although the underwater equipment was rather crude and difficult to handle, the rig proved considerably more sensitive than a bathythermograph. Vine, William Richardson, and Brackett Hersey continued their program of employing vertically spaced arrays of thermistors to study shallow temperature distributions. Tests showed that a larger ship would be more effective in towing the thermistors. Roy Rather, an associate of the Institution, through his company, the Commercial Engineering Company, Inc., designed and constructed a chain, in which thermistors and connecting wires could be mounted, and a diesel-powered winch for towing and handling the chain. In 1957 the winch was assembled on the US Coast Guard ship Yamacraw , and an enormous quantity of a new type of temperature data was recorded in the following months in the Sargasso Sea and along the east coast from Nova Scotia to Charleston, SC. At 600 feet long, the chain had 23 thermistors mounted on it at 25-foot intervals. Each thermistor was connected to a self-balancing bridge and digitizer, which in turn fed into an electric typewriter. This instrument revealed considerable complexity even in the wind-mixed surface layers.

Acousticians studied the significance of these findings to sound transmission. In the early 1960s Vine worked with Henry Perkins and Joe Mizula trying to find more ways of achieving quantitative roughness criteria of the isothermal surfaces by analyzing the towed thermistor records. In the mid-1960s they continued an analysis of the frequency distribution of some bottom characteristics of ocean bottom topography, determined from measurements on the echo sounding records of two traverses across the central North Atlantic Ocean.

Other work with instrumentation included the design of a deep-water mooring for an automatic weather station for the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. The boat-shaped buoy, 20 feet by 12 feet, contained electronic weather sensing and telemetering equipment. David Taylor Model Basin built the buoy, and the National Bureau of Standard provided the instrumentation. The mooring was set out in September 1958 and promptly rode out near-hurricane force winds from Hurricane Ella.

Vine took great interest in submersibles and motherships, and began working on a proposed small submersible for one of his most well known and innovative projects. He succeeded in overcoming the initial concern of oceanographers, who considered the project too risky and expensive. In the late 1950s Vine met with ONR and persevered on the project for years until the submersible was built in 1964. Alvin , a contraction of Al Vine’s name and a reference to the popular cartoon chipmunk, was the first US deep diving crewed research submersible. He helped design Lulu , Alvin’s mother ship, which was named for Vine’s mother. Many years later, Vine wrote to Mr. Muneo Edo regarding a diving support vessel for JAMSTEC,

I have been very interested in motherships as well as submersibles. I do have several thoughts on submersible programs and research ships. Most of them are the same as discussed in the past with JAMSTEC members.

My interest in semi-submersibles really started with the concept of upending an old submarine hull as an anchored or drifting stable platform…Somewhat later this concept evolved to the phenomenally successful spar buoy ship FLIP . Dr. Spiess and others at Scripps created and utilized a functionally practical research craft that is a great landmark in the history of sea faring. Secondly I was well acquainted with Tom Lang and chief scientist Bill McBan at San Diego when they evolved Kaimolino [semisubmerged platform-SSP] and got it built. Another great landmark in the history of sea going. Also I did some work for the Harbor Branch Foundation…who finally decided (for some very logical reasons) not to go the semi-submerged route for their submersible mother ship. 2

Besides Alvin, Vine also spent considerable time lobbying for other types of oceanographic vessels, including FLIP (Floating Instrument Platform) , operated by the Scripps’ Institution of Oceanography, and the Oceanus and R/V Atlantis II , operated by WHOI. One of his more far-reaching ideas, in collaboration with John Isaacs and two Scripps colleagues, entailed running a tapered cable from an orbiting satellite down to the earth’s surface; this “sky hook” could serve to transfer materials to and from the satellite, or launch materials into space. Another project that evolved from one of his many ideas included attaching an airplane wing to two WHOI vessels, Asterias and Crawford , in July 1960, with the intent to increase the ships’ research space.

In 1963 Vine worked as a science advisor to Admiral Stephan of the newly appointed Deep Submerged Systems Review Group (DSSRG), which resulted from the sinking of the large US nuclear-submarine Thresher , in April 1963. The Secretary of the Navy set this group up to make recommendations on how to improve the Navy’s capabilities for finding sunken submarines, rescuing personnel, and recovering the submarine if required. The group was interested in specific aspects of oceanography, including bottom currents, bottom visibility, firmness of the bottom, and a wide variety of oceanographic instruments. Vine predicted that the group's recommendations, if carried out, would 1) enable many tools and equipment to be engineered to assist oceanographers, and 2) draw attention to the need for oceanographic engineers in addition to oceanographic scientists. Vine also provided consultation to the Deep Submersible Group (DSG) of WHOI’s Applied Oceanography Department on instruments and navigational techniques for the Woods Hole research submersible.

In addition he visited Commander Houot at Toulon, France to discuss operational and scientific problems and details for the planned dives of the French bathyscaph Archimede in the Puerto Rico Trench in the spring of 1964. During the spring and summer of 1964, French and American scientists studied the Puerto Rico Trench using the Archimede and her mothership, Marcel Le Bihan , from the French Navy Bathyscaph Group in Toulon and the Laboratoire du Bathyscaphe, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, at Marseille. The scientific efforts in the US were supported through the Office of Naval Research, the Lamont Geological Observatory, and WHOI. The Woods Hole work was divided into two parts. Vine and Joe Mizula worked on the first part with groups on Archimede and R/V Conrad in May and June, helping to take seismic measurements, echo soundings, underwater pictures, and cores for selection of the best locations for the French dives in May and the American dives in June. Vine made dive #5 of the series with Lieutenant de Froberville and M. De Lauze. They also supplied and moored a navigational buoy near the site selected for the US dives. The second part, called Project DEEP SCAN, involved further geophysical investigations of the Trench.

In the late 1960s Vine’s advisory activities involved work with oceanographic vehicles, where he devoted much effort to the consideration and preliminary designs of advanced vehicles and instruments for oceanography. These included a 6000 meter submersible to study geologic features in the deep sea and over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; techniques for handling large instruments and small submersibles from research ships; a deep-coring device designed specifically for R/V Knorr ’s extended capability; and stable platforms for use at sea. In his work with geophysical instruments, Vine conducted a preliminary analysis of the requirements and design considerations of a very high resolution echo sounding system for one the research ships. His involvement with bottom photography included shooting a series of underwater photographs in the Black Sea, taken on Atlantis II during the second leg of the Black Sea cruise 49, to better determine small scale features than the echo sounder could obtain. In 1969 he served as a member of a special panel to review the NAECOE (Navy Ocean Engineering) program and mission. During the late 1960s Vine also spent several weeks lecturing at various colleges including the US Naval War College in Rhode Island, Auburn, University of Pittsburgh, University of Mississippi, Newark College of Engineering, and Tufts, and at several adult education meetings on acoustics in oceanography, geophysics, and ocean engineering.

During 1970 Vine divided his efforts among four areas: three under an ONR contract in the fields of sound transmission, assistance to the fleet and the design of research vehicles, and the fourth under a Coast Guard contract investigating a new technique for the rough weather handling of heavy instruments, small boats or submersibles. He conducted sound transmission work on the geographic aspects of sound channel transmission with emphasis on phenomena associated with non-linear velocity gradients. He also gave talks on physical and acoustical oceanography at Naval Commands in Naples, Norfolk, New London and Honolulu.

His involvement with vehicle and equipment design included conceptual and technical design of high seas workboats, both surface and submersible, that might be carried and routinely used from research ships. As part of his work with studying heavy weather handling, Vine explored the use of energy absorbers on small boats and submersibles. The energy absorption characteristics of aircraft landing gear made it practical to land high-speed aircraft routinely on aircraft carriers. Using the same principles and some of the same landing gear units, Vine attempted to show that it was possible to handle small boats in two or three higher sea states than was then practical. He conducted preliminary tests using a modified 24-knot workboat, and a rig of improved design was constructed for sea tests later that year.

In 1971, Vine investigated the fundamental aspects of handling heavy instruments or small boats at sea in rough weather. His reasons for this work were threefold: 1) severe handicaps in the use of large equipment and small boats in rough weather and often in normal weather, 2) an interest in improving the safety of crew and scientists when handling such equipment, and 3) the importance of seriously considering larger instrumentation to provide new kinds of measurements; typical examples included higher resolution towed echo sounders, side-scan sonars, coring rigs, biological sampling frames, workboats and submersibles. In part, Vine wanted to determine the similarity of the physical and operational problems when airplanes or small boats were being recovered by ship. His test boat was a 3-ton workboat provided by the Coast Guard that was equipped fore and aft with the entire nose wheel landing assemblies from a Navy S-2 aircraft. Another purpose was to test the handling of large buoys made of resilient materials such as plastic or rubber, which could then be more widely used than buoys of rigid construction. Several large tires, 10 feet in diameter and 4 feet wide, were obtained and converted to buoys that could be manned. The Woods Hole based Coast Guard Buoy-Tender, Hornbeam , was successfully used for transferring inspection personnel from the ship to navigational buoys.

Vine’s career spanned over forty years at WHOI, where he started as physicist in 1940, oceanographer in 1950, to senior scientist and scientist emeritus in 1963 and 1979, respectively. He remained active until his death on January 4, 1994, at age 79. Vine was a member of numerous professional organizations, including the National Academy of Engineering, the Acoustical Society of America and the Marine Technology Society. He was also a trustee of the International Oceanographic Foundation. He also received many awards, including the Marine Technology Society Compass Award in 1968; the Hiram Garfield Society Award in 1972; the David B. Stone Award from the New England Aquarium in 1977, for distinguished service to environment and community; the Lockheed Award for Ocean Science and Engineering in 1987; and the Blakely Smith Medal from the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. His commitment to, and interest and involvement in many aspects of oceanography, from ranging from instrumentation to safety at sea, remains evident from the numerous projects, committees, and panels which he either initiated, served, participated in. In 1982 He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Vine also held six patents on oceanographic devices, and authored or co-authored thirty scientific publications, four chapters in physics and engineering handbooks, and ten WHOI technical reports.

After Vine’s death, several people spoke or wrote about Vine. Gary Weir, US Contemporary Naval Historian described him “as a scientific hub of his time, a man of ideas who thought of connections and conjured ideas no on else could; he was a link to so many people, and also helped others to make connections.” 3

Fred Speiss wrote:

…Those of us who committed with him on many Navy topics recall him as the member who would come up with apparently irrelevant comment that would turn the discussion in some new and fruitful direction. Recommending turning a submarine on end stimulated thinking that led to FLIP. For better descriptions of the sea floor "we should build big hull mounted arrays” – the swath mapping sounders soon followed. The instances go on and on." 4

Another friend, J. Lamar Worzel, wrote:

Allyn was noted for his unusual, and to many, unconventional ideas to solve engineering and scientific problems. What seemed outrageous initially, usually turned out to be highly successful when actually accomplished.

Al had a strong influence on my life and on all others that came into close contact with him. He fairly bubbled with enthusiasm for the ongoing science at sea even after he was supposedly retired. In his case, this only meant the cessation of pay, not of work or ideas. 5

  1. 1Arthur, Robert S.,"Outlines of lectures on physical oceanography," WHOI, 1953 (WHOI 1953 A7 O9)
  2. 2Draft of letter 1979, box 13, f.32.
  3. 3From telephone conversation with Gary Weir and Margot Garritt in Spring 1996.
  4. 4SIO Log, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, January 14-21, 1994, vol. 31, no. 2.
  5. 5Allyn Vine memoriam, 1994, in WHOI Biographical File, A. Vine.


Arranged in five series:

Acquisitions Information

Allyn Collins Vine retained materials in his office, in the WHOI archives, and at home. Other materials that had been borrowed were retrieved from various collections. Vine originally sent four file cabinets of materials to the WHOI Archives in the early 1980s to provide research material for a historian. When Vine later moved his office from Clark Laboratory to the Coastal Research Center, he sent a map cabinet to the archives that contained ten drawers of maps (mostly duplicates of current holdings), data, drawings, charts, ray plotting, and plans.

In January 1997, several files belonging to Al Vine were found in unprocessed boxes of Alvin materials that Victoria Kaharl had borrowed to write Water Baby. These files were added to Vine’s papers. In June 1998, Vine’s Aluminaut notebook (box 12, ff.31-32) was removed from another set of Alvin materials and added to his papers. Additionally, WHOI Director Bob Gagosian gave the archives a photograph album that Adelaide Vine had given him. The photographs, taken by Vine’s former classmate from Hiram College and later given to Mrs. Vine, depict scenes of Hiram College, Lamont University, and the early work that Vine, Maurice Ewing and others carried out at WHOI from 1937-1938.

A previous accession (document box 82-47), containing Vine’s Bikini Wavemeters notebook of 1946-1947, was also added to the collection. Additional subject binders belonging to Vine, and found in the Archives vault in the summer of 1996, were added to his papers in December 1996. These binders date from the 1940s and contain correspondence, reports, notes, and data. The materials mostly relate to submarines testing and work done during World War II. In May and June of 1997, Adelaide Vine donated an additional 10 boxes of her husband’s files to the WHOI Archives (accessions 97-24, 97-26). These materials consisted of assorted and unidentified photographs, and ships’ subject files, which created a second series in the collection, called Ships’ Subject Files. The Vine Family retains additional papers of Allyn Vine.

Related Materials

The WHOI Biographical Files contains photographs of Vine. Additional images are found in the ships photograph collections. Material in the Historical Instrument Files and Patent Files contains Vine patents. Publications can be found in the WHOI Technical Reports and Memorandi, and Collected Reprints.

Several archival collections contain files about Vine: the WHOI Office of the Director (AC 9), contains correspondence, grant, and project information of Vine, especially in the records of Columbus O’Donnell Iselin from 1940-1950. Records for ‘Operation Crossroads Joint Task Force One’ (Acc. box # 84-42B) also contains correspondence relating to a project in which Vine participated.

Of particular interest are the audiocassettes and transcription of an oral history interview conducted by naval historian Gary Weir. The family of Allyn Vine retains additional photographs and papers.

A video of Allyn Vine's induction to the Hall of Fame of the Garfield Schools, of which he was an alumnus, is available on YouTube: Vine's son, David, speaks at the ceremony, recounting highlights of Vine's career.

Separated Material

From the vast number of publications that Vine had collected over the years, over 140 WHOI technical reports along with Vine's lending library of non-WHOI technical literature were added to the Data Library and Archives' collection. Still others were retained in Vine's papers because of the notations and comments Vine had made in them.

Processing Information

The Allyn C. Vine Fund provided funding for the processing of this collection. Materials were removed from filing cabinets and placed in acid-free boxes. Folders were replaced with acid-free folders and folder headings were transcribed on to the new folders. Materials from binders were removed and placed in archival folders. Paper clips and staples were removed; newspaper clippings, overheads, numerous fragile items were photocopied, and photographs were placed into archival sleeves.

A Guide to the Allyn Collins Vine papers, 1937-1998
Margot Brown Garritt
revised August 1999
Language of description
Finding aid written inEnglish

Repository Details

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