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Released April 18, 2005

GCRL FRIENDS CELEBRATE BOAT’S 50th BIRTHDAY

OCEAN SPRINGS – More than 70 friends of The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory joined in a celebration Saturday of 50 years' service by the R/V Hermes, the lab's oldest research vessel.

Marine biologist David Burke's lighthearted history of the 38-foot trawler provoked laughter, and his research captured the GCRL's early history.

"I never knew all that about the Hermes," said Aimee Gautier Dugger, granddaughter of Hermes Gautier, Jackson County senator who was instrumental in securing funding for the boat's construction. "We were all so young when the Hermes was christened."

Grandsons Warren Gautier and Hermes Quinn Gautier Jr. of Pascagoula were at the original christening and returned for the event Saturday.

Marie Caylor Wilson of Chesapeake, Va., daughter of Richard L. Caylor, founding director of the GCRL, returned to repeat the role she filled in the original christening of 1955. She furnished a traditional bottle of champagne for today's event. Wilson's memories of the event 50 years ago were of tea poured into a champagne bottle provided by Jackson County Supervisor Fred Moran.

"That is probably what tickled my daddy the most. He didn’t like alcohol in any form. But he thought it was okay that I christened it (the Hermes) with iced tea," Wilson said.

For 50 years, college students from states all along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers have come to the GCRL and boarded the Hermes to learn firsthand about Mississippi's marine environments during the lab's summer field program. Former students from Mississippi and Louisiana returned for the day's festivities that concluded Saturday evening with a Hermes reunion reception.

Boat captains' families, former neighbors who went out with GCRL scientists in the 1950s and GCRL retirees also attended.

"This event is important to the life of the laboratory," said Dr. William Hawkins, executive director of the GCRL. "In another five years, our employees with corporate memory of our early history are likely to be retired. We can't let our history disappear."

The GCRL is a unit of the university's College of Science and Technology.

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May 16, 2005 3:46 PM