GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When you think of the Port of Gulfport, you may think of shipping companies and similar industries. Something that may not immediately come to mind is oceanic research. Since Monday, a ship has been docked at the port, preparing for a journey out into the Gulf.
Preparations are underway, and the crew of the E/V Nautilus is making sure it's ship shape for several months of exploration in the Gulf.
"The Gulf of Mexico, because of all the oil and gas, is a fascinating place to study and do research," said expedition leader Dwight Coleman.
Part of that research will be studying the long term effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Coleman is in charge of the technology that makes the science discoveries and research possible. That technology includes the unmanned submersible team Hercules and Argus that travel to extreme depths to explore the ocean floor.
Some of the exploration missions are given to the Nautilus on a sort of ship-for-hire basis.
"If there's contract work that's available and we get that job, we can do that sort of work, but for the most part, we are funded by NOAA to do exploration projects," said Coleman.
That's what the crew of almost 50 will be working on this time. Megan Cook, lead science communicator, said the missions are about more than simply exploring. She said the real mission is to share the findings with the world, and the Nautilus makes that happen live on the internet.
"It's exciting to know that we're bringing something that isn't necessarily in your backyard, but it isn't in anybody's backyard. Nobody lives in the deep sea, you know. We're seeing stuff that people have never seen before in their lives," said Cook.
She hopes the missions will inspire a whole new generation to keep exploring.
"It's time for us to check out what we have in those resources just right off our coast," said Cook.
The Nautilus is shoving off Thursday to begin its Gulf exploration. It will be in and out of the Port of Gulfport for a couple of months before traveling to the Pacific Ocean.
To watch the exploration in progress, you can stream it live here: