RV Vema

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 (62 m). waterline vessel, with her almost indestructible Swedish wrought iron 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 her career as a research vessel entered a new career as the cruising yacht Mandalay.[2]

  • 1923 SV Hussar
  • 1934: SV Vema
  • 1953: RV Vema
  • 1982: SV Mandalay
Operator: 1953 - 81: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory[1]
Builder: Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen, Denmark[2]
Launched: February 2, 1923[2]
Completed: March 1923, rebuilt 1942 (USN), 1952 (Louis Kenedy, NS Canada), 196? (Lamont Geological Observatory), 1981 (Mike Burke, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises), 2010 (Angermeyer Cruises, Ecuador)
Fate: presently operated by Sail Windjammer, https://sailwindjammer.com/
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]
Decks: three
Propulsion: 900 BHP V12 GM diesel circa 1942
Speed: 16 knots under full sail
Capacity: 72 passengers (as Mandalay)[3]
Crew: about 28 (as Mandalay)[3]

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 represented the epitome of maritime luxury and glamour in her 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, a combination of Vetlesen and Maude. The Vetlesens spent many pleasurable days at sea.

Vema during WWII

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] She 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 Louis Kenedy, a captain from Nova Scotia, salvaged the vessel.[1][5] LDEO leased the vessel in 1953 and soon bought her 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, she 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 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 (2,269,000 km).[1] Notable scientists who worked aboard the Vema include Maurice Ewing, Bruce C. Heezen, Ralph (Ralphy) Roessler, J. Lamar Worzel,[6] Jack Nafe, Frank Press, 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 her successors, the Conrad, Eltanin, and RV Maurice Ewing, including the design and installation of numerous pieces of customized scientific measurement equipment critical to their research.

Seafloor features

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 square feet (1,900 m2).[3] The ship was operated by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises from 1982 until the operator went out of business in 2008.[12] Mandalay subsequently was purchased at auction, refurbished, and used as specialty cruise ship in the Galapagos islands off Ecuador by Angermeyer Cruises. The S/V Mandalay is currently scheduled through Sail Windjammer, Inc. She sails weekly out of Grenada for one and two-week cruises in the Grenadines.

Other research vessels of the LDEO


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


  1. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "Marine Operations: Vema (1953-1981)". Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  2. Miramar Ship Index # 7738383
  3. Mandalay information
  4. Hoffman Island access date February 3, 2009
  5. Wertenbaker, William (1974). The Floor of the Sea: Maurice Ewing and the Search to Understand the Earth. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
  6. Worzel, J. Lamar (1959). "Extensive deep sea sub-bottom reflections identified as white ash". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 45 (3): 349–355. Bibcode:1959PNAS...45..349W. doi:10.1073/pnas.45.3.349. PMC 222564. PMID 16590389.
  7. Vema (Library Association of Rockland) County
  8. Heezen, B. C.; Gerard, R. D.; Tharp, M. (1964). "The Vema Fracture Zone in the Equatorial Atlantic". Journal of Geophysical Research. 69 (4): 733. Bibcode:1964JGR....69..733H. doi:10.1029/JZ069i004p00733.
  9. "IHO-IOC GEBCO Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names, March 2011 version; www.gebco.net". GEBCO. Archived from the original on 2012-04-21. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  10. Antarctic: Flying fish at the Vema seamount. Archived 2012-08-02 at Archive.today accessdate=february 2, 2009
  11. AMS glossary accessdate=February 2, 2009
  12. Windjammer Cruises Officially Out of Business, April 2, 2008
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