A HISTORY OF LUMCON VESSELS
LUMCON acquired its first research vessel, the R.J. Russell, from Louisiana State University in 1982. Cruises on the Russell were more than a little rocky, as Wayne Simoneaux, LUMCON Marine Center Superintendent, attested to firsthand. “We always came back with what we left the dock with personnel-wise… but not always equipment-wise,”said Simoneaux, who was hired in 1985 to work as a cook, engineer, and assistant captain on the Russell.
Steve Rabalais, LUMCON Director of Operations and Facilities, has his own memories about the ship. “The ship’s fiberglass was leaking and the plywood started rotting and growing mushrooms,” said Rabalais. “There was this huge bracket fungus growing in the wheel house,” Rabalais recalled, extending his arms to either side of his head to demonstrate its enormous size. “The Captain, Lee Black, called it his garden.”
While LUMCON’s employees were thankful for the Russell, they realized her limitations and their need for a larger, better-outfitted oceangoing vessel. Rabalais and LUMCON’s first Executive Director Don Boesch spent several years planning for this new ship. The R/V Pelican was built in 1985 at Allied Shipyard in LaRose, Louisiana with capital outlay funds provided by the State of Louisiana. When the 105-foot sparkling blue-and-white R/V Pelican turned the bend and sailed into LUMCON’s harbor in May 1985, it was greeted with great celebration. “When the Pelican came in, we all came out of the trailers and drank champagne,” recalled LUMCON professor Dr. Nancy Rabalais. “Everyone felt like it was their boat.”
While the Pelican was well-suited for oceanographic research, LUMCON needed a smaller vessel for nearshore research and educational cruises. In 1986, LUMCON sold the R.J. Russell and added to its fleet the 58-foot R/V Acadiana, designed and built by Breaux’s Bay Craft, Inc. in Loreauville, LA with funding provided by LUMCON.
Small boats have also been a part of LUMCON since the beginning. For example, the E. coli (of the same name as the bacterial infection) was donated to LUMCON in its infancy.
In 2003, the R/V Pelican underwent a “mid-life rebuild”, upgrading the majority of her onboard scientific equipment and increasing the deck cargo capacity, aft deck area, cruising range, and quarters (bunk) space.
As a former UNOLS RCRV, the R/V Point Sur has countless successful cruises to her credit. She has traveled to the furthest reaches of the Aleutian Islands and successfully navigated Drakes Passage to and from Antarctica before making her way into the Gulf of Mexico. The University of Southern Mississippi acquired her and LUMCON began operating her in 2015.
The R/V Acadiana was refitted in early 2017 from stem to stern and keel to mast with all the latest technologies and comforts.
LUMCON continues to maintain a fleet of small boats and watercraft to meet the needs of marine science educators and researchers.