A marine archaeological research company based in Portland
is planning to use its research vessel to deliver food and
supplies to Louisiana fishing villages that were leveled by
The 102-foot vessel Diamond will probably be accompanied by
a small flotilla of shrimp-fishing boats when it leaves from
Fort Myers Beach, Fla., either today or Friday for the
Louisiana bayou where the Mississippi River flows into the
Gulf of Mexico.
The aim is to deliver much-needed water, food and supplies
to Empire, Venice and other communities - or what remain of
them - that line the river between the Gulf and New
"Those are some of the hardest-hit places, and they haven't
gotten any aid to this point," Greg Brooks, a partner for
Portland-based Sub Sea Research LLC, said in a phone interview
The sliver of land through which the Mississippi River
meanders southeast of New Orleans is dotted with small
communities that are dependent on the commercial fishing and
oil industries. It was there, in the tiny town of Buras, where
the eye of Katrina made landfall at daybreak Aug. 29.
The hurricane made more than two-thirds of Plaquemines
Parish uninhabitable. Residents were allowed back to the
northernmost part of the parish Sunday but weren't allowed to
go south of Port Sulphur because the highway is
It is that area - inaccessible by road - that the Diamond
and other boats hope to reach, said Gary Burris, a former
fisherman from Naples, Fla., who has spearheaded the relief
effort. Besides carrying supplies and food, the boats will
also provide shelter for those in need, he said.
"There are still people in there that they haven't gotten
to. That's the stuff that keeps you awake at night," Burris
After coming up with the idea to help those along the
lowermost part of the Mississippi River, Burris contacted
commercial fishing organizations and began soliciting
Sub Sea Research was contacted because the Diamond is kept
in Key West, Fla., and has sonar and other equipment that can
help survey the river and determine where boats are sunk. The
vessel can carry up to 30 tons of supplies, Brooks said.
Josh Tickell, who lives in California and heads a nonprofit
organization that promotes biodiesel fuel, arranged for the
delivery of 7,000 gallons of donated biodiesel from farmers in
Iowa. The fuel was delivered Wednesday, and Brooks and his
business partners are donating their time and the operational
costs of the Diamond.
For Tickell, the hurricane hit close to home because he is
originally from Louisiana and still has relatives there.
"It's basically a disaster down there," he said.
Besides lending a helping hand, Burris plans to videotape
what they encounter and make a documentary of the plight of
the fishing communities.
Brooks also intends to use his vessel's remote-operated
camera to take underwater video to assess what the marine life
is like in the Gulf of Mexico and in the river.
"We'll see what's there and what's gone," he said, "and
what's alive and what's dead."