Mississippi River Delta Field Seminar: A Muddy Account of Bayous, Beignets, and Beaches.

ImageI write now the final report of our travels as Williams-Mystic S’13 students. The time has flown by at an unimaginable speed, and our final journey has brought us closer than ever. We are also even more grateful for the experiences that Williams-Mystic provides: we have been back from Louisiana for about a week now, and the time to cease conversations about the experiences we shared there is nowhere in sight. Our class still shares laughs over the looks on our professor’s faces as they held snakes and baby alligators at Zam’s in Kraemer on the Bayou Boeuf, wax nostalgic over pictures from our Cajun Dancing excursion, and speak passionately about the ethical and political issues we encountered during our time on Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico.

After a long first day of travel, we made our way to our hosts for the remainder of the trip, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), for dinner and to settle into our dorm-style rooms in Cocodrie, which is approximately 85 miles southwest of New Orleans. LUMCON provided us with a home base as well as our first introduction to real Louisiana style home cooking—biscuits and grits were staples during mealtime, as well as some very charismatic crawfish for dinner and fresh fish caught by our classmate Morgan!

LUMCON is situated directly on a marsh, which is perfect for studying the “lobes of Louisiana,” or the areas most directly affected by the shaping of the Mississippi Delta rivers, channels, plains and marshes. To better understand this dynamic landmass, Sam Bently, a Williams-Mystic graduate and professor at LSU, led us through the sampling of a vertical core of the marsh sediment using a vibracore, which gathered sediment samples from 3 to 5 meters below surface.

Our next excursion was to Grand Isle, with a stop at Port Fourchon, which supports half of the drilling activity in the Gulf and 75% of all deep water production on over 1,2000 developed acres of land. Our brief stop here was highlighted by a quick lecture by Katy Hall on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 and its impact on Port Fourchon and surrounding areas. We quickly piled back into the vans and arrived at Grand Isle, where Mr. Chris Hernandez, a Grand Isle town official, gave us a guided tour of the area with a stop at his home to meet his family. The day was capped by lectures on local author Kate Chopin, a literature lab at Grand Isle State Park, a quick dip in the Gulf, and free time on the beach.

Our final day brought us to New Orleans, where we had free time to explore the French Quarter after being shown the historic and state-wide landmarks on a walking tour by our history professor. Fresh beignets (an incredible powdered donut and New Orleans specialty) were enjoyed, pictures were taken, and we even had a ride on the Mississippi River on an old-fashioned steam sternwheeler, the Natchez!

After an action-packed trip, a nice long weekend helped us recover some much-needed sleep and classes began as usual Monday morning. Although the travel has ended, the days are longer and adventure waits at every corner here at Mystic Seaport.

Fair Winds,

Leah

Author: williamsmystic

A one semester interdisciplinary ocean and coastal studies program integrating marine science, maritime history, environmental policy, and literature of the sea.

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