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Final mission

By A Treasure Coast essay by Paul Janensch


Fort Pierce, FL – I don't exchange e-mails very often with someone at sea. But that's how I conversed with Jan Petri, communications director for the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, a division of Florida Atlantic University on the Indian River Lagoon in Fort Pierce. He was aboard the research vessel Seward Johnson with a team of scientists on a mission related to the oil disaster. The Seward Johnson is named for Harbor Branch founder J. Seward Johnson Sr. Since it was commissioned in 1985, the 204-foot vessel has gone on hundreds of research expeditions. The current four-week tour began July 9. A submersible - or mini-submarine - takes researchers down in the Gulf as far as 2,000 feet to gather samples from coral, the sea bottom and the water column. The samples provide data against which to measure impact from the oil spill. The vessel steers clear of the oil slick. A report from inside the submersible was filed by correspondent Kerry Sanders of NBC News. The Seward Johnson recently was sold to Cepemar, an environmental consulting firm in Brazil. Jan Petri told me by e-mail that after it returns, the vessel will be sent to its new home. I will wish the Seward Johnson a fond "adeus" - Portuguese for good-bye. It has served Harbor Branch well. For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.

Treasure Coast essayist Paul Janensch was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.