Sometime ago, i came across the news which said that Turkey’s first research vessel R/V Arar was decomissioned and was going to be scrapped. Arar is a familiar sight if you are from Istanbul and if you are crossing the bosphorus often. The news made me sad because she is such a beautiful ship and very important for Turkish scientific history. And when i made a small research, i met with Curt Kosswig, who lead the project to have such a fleet of research vessels in Turkey. So i will try to tell as good as i can both the ship and Kosswig’s stories.
The first scientific studies over fishery in Turkey started around 1920’s and in 1930, the Zoology Institute was founded. In 1931, fishery institute was also founded under the ministery of economy and Istanbul University. In 1936, Istanbul University invited Curt Kosswig to be the head of faculty of science zoology department. In some sources, it is stated that his willing to escape from nazi Germany was also an effect to come to Istanbul University. We can proove this when we read his memories. Two years after he came to Istanbul, he started to teach in Turkish. He made so many research in Turkey during his professional life.
He took attention to some areas like Manyas Lake, which are preserved as natural parks today. In 1949, he started the Turkish Biology Foundation. In 1950, he restarted the hydrobiology istitute which was founded by professor Hovasse and than forgotten. In 1951, he started to renovate the laboratories and service buildings of the department in Baltalimanı and he is the one who ordered 4 research vessels for the institute. Three of them were smaller motor vessels named “Gezer”, “Görür” and “Bulur”. And the main research vessel was the R/V Arar.
R/V Arar was built in 1951 by Kremer Werft in Germany. She is 31.27m long and 6.50m wide. She has a MAN diesel engine producing 380 HP. In some resources, the ship is said to be built for North Sea reseaches but she was directly delivered to Istanbul University with the name Arar, so this can not be true. She just looks like North Sea trawlers. And another wrong idea about the ships history is that she was donated to Turkey with the Marshall fund. This vessel has no relation with the U.S.
R/V Arar was used in so many research missions and some of these were done for the first time not only in Turkey, also in the world. She enabled so important research missions on hydrography and hydrobiology on Sea of Marmara, Mediterranean Sea, Aegean Sea and especially Black Sea where there was so little information known about. She was also a base for scientific education, so many scientsits took their place in their profession onboard her. Just to give some names, G. A. Rounsefel, S. J. Holt, G.S. Napier, T. B. Lexow, H. Bergs, H. Henriksen, A. J. Lee, O. Aasen. J. B. Einarsson, R. Gudmundsson, H. I. Chapelle, H. Einarsson. W. Nümann, G. F. Losse, K. A. Johanenson from FAO, and H. Pektaş, E. Akyüz. İ. Artüz, N. Kutaygil, N. Gürtürk, D. İyigüngör, C. Özalpsan, A. Öker, V. Aras, M. Cebeci, N. Bilecik, , M. Demir, N. Demir, İ. Ünsal, N. Meriç, R. Denizci, N. Ünsal, G. Türgan, A. Acara, F. Gözenalp, R. Yüce, A. Uysal, G. Yurder, N. Çalışkan, M. Atlı, A. N. Tarkan, , N. Gökalp, F. Kara, E. Ören from IU.
In 1976, Arar was officially purchased from the ministery of economics by Istanbul University where she was used for the missions all the time. She was then focused especially researches about pollution. Then her ownership was changed between several departments in IU.
So many people visited her during her carreer. One of them was Kakkonen the king of Finland. She also has sad memories. In 2006, Prof. Dr. Erdoğan Okuş lost his life during a research mission in Black Sea.
In those years, IU was complaining about the economical hardships that they are facing to continue researches with these ships. It was said that it is hard to get projects from state because then they have to pay for the fuel. And due to economical crisis, private projects were suspended. Also the maintenance costs were too high.
And in July 2014, Arar was decomissioned and most probably she is going to end up at ship breaking yards in Aliağa. Some people offered the ship to be given to Koç Museum where the legendary istanbul ferry Fenerbahçe and the submarine Uluç Ali Reis (ex. USS Thornback) and many other vessels are on display but Koç Museum refused the offer saying that they do not have enough space for the ship. Now she is berthed at Haydarpaşa Docks along with the other ships of Istanbul University “Alemdar 2” and “Piri Reis” . But the future is uncertain. Hope she can find a place to live as an important figure in Turkish Scientific History.
And Dr. Kosswig, he lost his wife in 1974. He returned to Hamburg and he also passed away in 1982. They now lie side by side in Aşiyan cemetery by the bosphorus. Hope Arar, his gift to us, will stay longer…