HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Coastal Carolina University's School of Coastal Marine Systems Science has a grand new tool to use in helping students learn more about their field of studies. On Friday, the school christened their new $1 million, grant-funded ship known as the "Coastal Explorer."
The ship is a 50-foot catamaran designed with high-tech research equipment on board, such as sonar. The vessel is currently docked at the Grande Dunes Marina in Myrtle Beach.
Dr. Paul Gayes, the Director of the school, said they've waited 25 years for something like this to have available for students. Dr. Gayes said the last four years they've waited on legislation to be available to offer this kind of grant money.
The vessel allows for 22 crew members to be on board at one time, that's triple the number they've had on former boats.
The equipment the students will be operating gives more of an encompassing look into the coast, according to Dr. Gayes.
The school currently has 900 grad students enrolled in the program, along with those working on a masters degree. A doctorate program is in the works, and Dr. Gayes said the Coastal Explorer could be a selling point for other prospective students to choose CCU.
"Much of what we do is in this area of the coast will be working out of Georgetown and North Myrtle Beach. It allows us to leverage that location and get more students involved, and best approach some of these problems which are really in need of understanding," Dr. Gayes said.
Dr. Gayes said the group will also be doing research as far north as New York's coast line to as far south as Florida, "to better understand how the systems work together, to give that guidance to the community leaders to best steward this environment and economy."
Research teams will be looking into beach nourishment, coral reef development, fish habitats, and testing salt water properties.
It took builders 13,000 hours to complete the Coastal Explorer. Once all the proper paperwork is given to the U.S. Coast Guard, the ship will be officially ready to set sail.