Obituary: Stewart B. Nelson

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

December 5, 2016

Stewart B. Nelson, Ph.D.  - B. June 9, 1937 D. September 12, 2016

 
Dr. Stewart B. Nelson URI -MMA 1974, oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer and marine historian passed away of complications related to cancer on September 12, 2016 in Tampa, Fla. He is mourned by family, friends and classmates of the Marine Affairs Program at the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Nelson's multifaceted career was principally spent in service to his country in his position as aide to the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy and in this capacity he was the Senior Advisor to the to the Oceanographer, a Rear Admiral Flag position. Dr. Nelson who later earned a Ph.D, from the University of Southern California, was a pivotal figure in the modern era of the Naval Oceanographic Office. His positions in marine nongovernmental organizations such as the Marine Technology Society and as president of the American Oceanic Organization established him as a key figure in the Washington, D.C. ocean community. In later years he established a close working relationship with several members of Congress.
 
As a member of one of the early classes in the Marine Affairs Program, Stew quickly established warm relationships with the faculty and professional members of his 1974 class. On his return to the Oceanographer's Office, Stew served as a congressional fellow and oversaw the construction and commissioning of several naval oceangraphic research ships. As a historian Stew documented the story of oceanograhic ships and research starting with Benjamin Franklin in his 1971 publication Oceanographic Ships Fore and Aft. (1971).
 
Stew has participated in a wide variety of projects in all the world's oceans having worked from ships, submarines, submersibles and commercial blimps and upon his retirement from the US. Navy he remained active in the ocean community. He was one of the first generation of academic lecturer's in the cruise ship industry and has worked with such organizations as the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy, the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere, the National Alcohol Fuels Commission and the Mid-South Energy Project.
 
In later years Stew's association with the Explorer's Club of New York City provided him with his dream assignment; that of co-leader and scientific advisor to the 2005 submersible expedition to find the scuttled submarine Nautilus in a Norwegien fjord; Project Nautilus. The expedition, an Explorer's Club flag carrying journey used a submersible to descend 1,138 feet to identify the remains of this World War I surplus submarine that had been reconfigured for an attempt to transit under the Arctic ice cap. Later Stew recounted the expedition in his book, Sabotage in the Arctic; Fate of the Submarine Nautilus. A book signing at the Explorers Club and inclusion along with a fellow of the Explorers's Club became one of his most prized honors.
 
A popular destination and ocean-related lecturer may he be remembered as a gifted story teller and lover of history. For those fortunate enough to have heard him story tell; may a small piece of him live on in you. Contributions in his memory can be made to the Graduate School of Oceanography University of Rhode Island and hospice of Hillsborough County, http://www.chaptershealth.org.
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