HOUMA, La. (WLOX) - The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) performed a keel-laying ceremony on Tuesday, highlighting their newest research vessel named after a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
The ship was named after Dr. Gilbert Mason, who was a family practitioner in Biloxi and most notably remembered for his leadership in the Gulf Coast wade-ins. He led the fight to integrate the beaches in Harrison County and the Biloxi school system.
His fight for equality furthered the slogan for the vessel: “aequa mari,” or “equal access to the sea.”
The $100 million ship will be operated by the Gulf- Caribbean Oceanographic Consortium (GCOC) and led by USM and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), according to USM.
The research vessel is 199 feet long and will feature science labs, deck space for scientific deployments and state-of-the-art technologies, including tools for seafloor mapping.
“The National Science Foundation has a long history of advocating for inclusion in research, knowing that inclusive science yields the most complete perspectives and outcomes,” said Terrence Quinn, NSF’s Division Director for the Division of Ocean Sciences. “Commemorating Dr. Mason’s life and achievements will be a good reminder that this NSF-owned research vessel will not only open the waters to further discovery, but it will open opportunities for a wide range of researchers.”
The ship will be homeported at the Port of Gulfport.