SPACE CENTER -
A group of scientists, historians and divers recently confirmed
an important historical discovery made by hydrographic science students
from The University of Southern Mississippi.
As a field
project in the summer of 2002, the Southern Miss hydrographic science
class based at Stennis Space Center used multibeam and side-scan
sonar equipment to map the underwater landscape of the meandering
east Pearl River between the I-10 and Highway 90 bridges in Hancock
What they found
hidden for decades under the murky water turned a dream into reality
for David Andre', executive director of the Mississippi Sound Maritime
In the river,
students found deposits of old rough-cut logs believed to be remnants
from the days of large-scale logging at Logtown, Miss., where original
growth pine and cypress trees were cut and processed from 1848 until
major logging ceased in 1928.
plans to build a reproduction Mississippi Sound Lugger, a 36-foot
sailing boat, in the same style and with old-growth yellow long-leaf
pine as would have been used over 100 years ago. Using line drawings
employed to build an 1894 sailing lugger originally constructed
in Pascagoula, the foundation will bring an important piece of the
Mississippi Gulf Coast's maritime history to life.
arrangement with the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office, Andre'
has been granted a special permit from Mississippi's Department
of Marine Resources to harvest 65 old-growth pine logs from the
lower Pearl River to build the reproduction vessel.
the permit in a very restricted manner to be environmentally sound,"
said Sharon Hatch Hodge, special assistant attorney general to the
Department of Marine Resources. "When you have an area like
the Pearl River that is tidally influenced, it falls under the public
trust doctrine, with the Secretary of State as the trustee."
Hodge said, is historically important and therefore warranted special
consideration. Interpretation of the side-scan sonar readings from
the Southern Miss hydrographic survey of the Pearl River first revealed
log formations. The sonar, mounted inside a small torpedo-shaped
"towfish," is towed underwater behind the boat. The sonar
emits sound pulses that penetrate the murky water, reflect off underwater
features along both sides and return to the sonar's receiver. The
intensity of this return to the sonar produces an image of marine
features on either side of the towfish.
collected in the 2002 survey was used by our Hydrographic Science
Research Center to produce an inland electronic nautical chart,"
said David Dodd, coordinator of the Hydrographic Science Program
at Southern Miss. "This electronic chart was then brought back
into an integrated navigation system to assist in directing us to
the target locations."
sonar data from students' 2002 field project and marked several
target areas on the electronic chart of the river, indicating likely
locations for logs.
On Nov. 15,
Dodd and Andre' joined volunteer divers from the Gulfport Fire Department
on the Pearl River to see if the stick-like images glimpsed on side-scan
sonar really were old-growth logs. Outfitted with global positioning
and computer equipment aboard the boat, Dodd was able to literally
watch on his laptop computer as their boat closed in on targets
identified in the electronic chart.
divers went into the water at the targets indicated on the chart,"
Dodd said. "The targeting was incredibly accurate. Weights
tethered to buoys were dropped into the river to mark the targets
from the electronic chart, and the weights nearly hit the logs."
While the first
location was identified as a shipwreck (which was marked for future
reference), the next several locations investigated by divers proved
to be exactly what Andre' was hoping to find.
Not only did
divers find logs, they found good-sized logs between 12 and 36 inches
in diameter. "We were amazed at the number of logs," Andre'
said. Now with confirmed locations of the old logs, Andre' has information
he can use to pursue his historic project.
Southern Miss equipped with the technology, the willing spirit,
and instruments like GPS, side-scan sonar, and eventually multibeam
sonar, is a most valuable resource as our foundation seeks to preserve
the heritage of the Mississippi Sound, its lands, and tributaries,"
to begin harvesting 65 of the old logs within 30 days, with construction
of the reproduction vessel planned for February 2004. While under
construction on the west side of the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor,
the public may view the vessel as it takes shape under the hands
of volunteers and expert shipwrights. The finished lugger will be
berthed near the construction site as a permanent exhibit to help
illustrate not only the timber industry of Mississippi, but also
the history of working watercraft in the Mississippi Sound.
be the first of a series of historic boats we hope to keep on exhibit
there," Andre' said.
As for Dodd's
part in this adventure, he said the boating excursion with Andre'
has been beneficial for his program as well. "It basically
validated all the processes we used in the 2002 survey," Dodd
said. "To be able to go back to those points using the positioning
and processes from 2002 proves that our processes are sound."
promises more discoveries for Dodd and his hydrographic science
students. "Next year's student project area has been selected
and we're going to chart the Pearl River from the I-10 bridge northward
to Stennis Space Center," Dodd said. "Who knows what we'll
Miss Department of Marine Science is strategically located at Stennis
Space Center in Hancock County, home to the world's largest population
of oceanographers and hydrographers. The department offers both
masters and doctoral degrees in marine science and a master's degree
in hydrographic science.