For the first time in 17 years, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has named a new marine superintendent, a vital position that oversees the operations of Scripps’ globe-traveling fleet of scientific research vessels.
Tom Althouse, who joined Scripps in 1992 following a career in the United States Navy, has sailed into retirement after capably overseeing dozens of ship expeditions and hundreds of crew and scientists.
Althouse will be succeeded by Stephen Zoltan Kelety, a fellow Navy veteran. A retired U.S. Navy captain and former director of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory in Point Loma, Kelety is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (Naval Architecture, 1981), the Naval Nuclear Power School, and holds an MBA degree from Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass.
“It’s difficult to see Captain Althouse go. In his 17 years he’s built Scripps ship operations into a great organization,” said Bruce Appelgate, Scripps associate director for Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support. “His leadership skills, personal integrity, and remarkable competence have contributed to building Scripps ship operations into the capable organization it is today.”
But, Appelgate added, Scripps’ marine superintendent position will remain in good hands.
“Zoltan has a strong background in marine operations, with command experience at sea,” Appelgate said. “Perhaps best of all he shares (Althouse’s) passion for oceanographic research and attention to detail. I heartily welcome Zoltan on board.”
Kelety served as chief of staff for the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command in San Diego. He was department head for the Constellation Carrier Strike Group and commanding officer of the U.S. Navy submarine Dolphin, as well as executive officer aboard USS La Jolla.
“This position looked like the perfect fit,” said Kelety, who was born in New Jersey and has lived all over the U.S. Kelety said he joined Scripps Oceanography for the “absolute thrill” of working for a world-class institution and being involved in oceanographic and research maritime operations.
The 24-hour-a-day marine superintendent position is challenging and critically important due to the significance of Scripps research vessels within the broad oceanographic research community. Scientists from across America and around the world use Scripps vessels to study the world’s oceans. In 2008 alone, Scripps vessels spent 916 days at sea, carrying up to 38 scientists at a time, making the kinds of important discoveries for which Scripps is renowned, including global climate change, ocean acidification, and ocean ecosystem dynamics.
Scripps’ research vessels are a key component to student instruction as well. Each ship serves as an extension of the Scripps laboratory system, carrying undergraduate and graduate students to sea as part of a process that trains the next generation of scientists.
Scripps’ ships include the flagship global-class research vessel (R/V) Roger Revelle, named after the former Scripps director and founder of UC San Diego; R/V Melville, a global-class ship named after George Wallace Melville, a pioneer arctic explorer, engineer, and rear admiral in the U.S. Navy; R/V New Horizon, an intermediate-class vessel that operates primarily in the eastern Pacific Ocean and memorializes the R/V Horizon, the ship that launched the institution’s major expeditions; and R/V Robert Gordon Sproul, a regional-class vessel that conducts short missions off the U.S. West Coast and is named after a former University of California president.
Last year Scripps celebrated the return of Melville after the “Magellan Expedition,” a two-and-a-half-year journey that featured a variety of scientific endeavors, including dramatic close-up observations of a deep-sea volcanic eruption, the launching and recovery of unmanned aerial vehicles studying Earth’s geomagnetic field, and research on the turbulent seas off Kauai, Hawaii, to measure the physical properties of sound traveling through the ocean.
Kelety will supervise the 125 officers, crew, and shore-based staff who operate and manage Scripps ships. He will serve as the chief operations officer for the Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma, the home port for Scripps research vessels that includes a six-acre complex with piers, warehouses, laboratories, and offices that support the fleet.
Among Kelety’s challenges will be overseeing the energy efficiency of Scripps’ research vessels in an environmentally friendly manner. Scripps recently became the first research institution to use a modern, eco-friendly coating on the hulls of Revelle and Melville and the propellers of Sproul. As a result, Scripps ships now save more than 27,000 gallons of fuel annually, reducing carbon emissions by 30 tons per year. The new paint, which prevents marine organisms from adhering to the ship, is non-toxic and non-ablative—meaning it won’t flake off and contaminate the oceans with toxic chips.