Award-winning actors visit Gulfport to support Gulf oil research

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Academy-award winning actor Morgan Freeman and television star Ted Danson greeted fans and supporters as they boarded the Oceana Latitude Tuesday morning. The 170-foot vessel is docked at the Port of Gulfport this week.

Danson is a board member of Oceana, an international ocean conservation organization that's on two-month research expedition on the Gulf oil disaster.

"Our heart goes out to everybody in this region, in Mississippi and the Gulf, who have the Gulf in their blood, whose livelihoods have been interrupted because of the spill," said Danson.

"I am a Mississippian. I am a sailor and I am a supporter of Oceana," said Freeman.

Both actors criticized offshore drilling.

"I know what happened down here is a result of speed and greed," said Freeman.  "Nobody has ever tried to drill for oil in water this deep before and are ill-prepared to do it."

"The research that we're about to do, I think, prove what we already know. The risks of new offshore oil drilling are just too high," said Danson.

The research started two weeks ago, with a team of divers, scientists, and photographers documenting vulnerable sea life and delicate habitats around the Florida coast. The company Nautica announced a $100,000 donation to fund the next phase, which involves mapping any underwater oil plumes around the Deepwater Horizon.

"So we could get an estimate of oil that still remains in the vicinity of the platform. And second, we'll be looking at some very interesting habitat in an area known as the Alabama Alps, where lots of fish live and breed," said Chief Scientist Dr. Michael Hirshfield.

"We have people from all over the world who are deeply concerned about the oceans and want to make sure that we all learn the lessons of this experience and make sure that we know what to do in the future," said Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless.

Freeman and Danson helped raise flags on the Oceana Latitude as it prepares to search for answers.

"Sadly, we will be dealing with the effects of this spill for many, many years," said Danson. "We want to find out what's going on underneath the water so we can make the right decisions going forth on how to protect the Gulf."

In the afternoon, Danson and Freeman boarded one of the smaller Oceana research vessels to tour Ship Island. They wanted to see how the oil spill has affected the island and clean-up efforts there.

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