Marine Scientists Say Ft. Johnson Not a Suitable Site for Laboratory

the Committee studies a proposalSCIENTISTS STUDY LAB PROPOSAL-Dr. J. L. McHugh, of William and Mary College; Dr. Dale Leipper of the Oceanographic Institute of Texas A & M College; Dr. George D. Grice, president of the College of Charleston, and Dr. George Gant of the Southern Regional Educational Committee of Atlanta, Ga., left to right, study a proposal to establish a marine scientific research laboratory at Fort Johnson in Charleston Harbor. The group held their first organizational meeting here yesterday and today. (Staff Photo by Horres.)

By BELVIN HORRES, Charleston Evening Post, March 26, 1953

Fort Johnson is unsuitable for the establishment of a marine scientific research laboratory in the opinion of a group of eminent marine scientists.

The Marine Committee of the Southern Regional Education Board, composed of representatives of universities and scientific institutions in 14 Southern states, gave their opinion today at the conclusion of their first meeting which was held in the Fort Sumter Hotel.

Dr. George Gant, of Atlanta, a member of the SREB and acting chairman of the Marine Committee, said, however, his group is of “the studied opinion that marine research should be undertaken along the South Carolina and Georgia Coasts.”

The committee met here to organize and to study a proposal by Dr. George D. Grice, president of the College of Charleston, that idle Fort Johnson be made into a marine laboratory under the supervision of the College of Charleston. The committee named Dr. Dale S. Leipper of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College chairman. He succeeds Dr. Gant who had acted as temporary chairman pending an organizational meeting.

Dr. Nelson Marshall, of the Oceanographic Institute of Florida State University, was named executive secretary. The executive committee is composed of Dr. Gant, Dr. Leipper, Dr. Marshall and Dr. J. L. McHugh of William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Va.

Dr. Gant said the sub-committees will hold three regional meetings within the next six weeks. These will be at Morehead City, N.C.; Tallahassee, Fla. and New Orleans, La.

The fall meeting of the organization will be held at a place and date to be announced later, Dr. Gant added.

Dr. Gant did not amplify the committee’s statement that it found Fort Johnson unsuitable for the establishment of a laboratory except to say “the committee feels that there are serious limitations to the site.”

He said the scientists considered the matter at great lengths and took into consideration such factors as exposure for ocean-going vessels required in research, salinity of the water, the physical plant and the cost of upkeep.

The committee, he added, praised Dr. Grice for his interest and said “the committee believes that research in marine science ought to be developed in this particular area—along the Georgia-South Carolina Coast. We feel happy that Dr. Grice is developing interest and both the Marine Committee and the Southern Regional Education Board offer their services in developing a program.”

Dr. Grice last year sought through legislative action to have the Fort site turned over to the college for use as a laboratory after the South Carolina State Health Department failed to take steps to use the site as a hospital.

He invited the marine committee of SREB to evaluate its value as a laboratory site. The site was originally turned over to the state by the U.S. Public Health Service but the USPHS still holds title to the property.

The fort was used by the Quarantine Service of the USPHS as a base for inspecting incoming ships and for hospitalization of contagious disease cases found in quarantine inspections.

The Quarantine Service, however, moved its base into Charleston in 1948 and since that time have been boarding ships at docks or at anchor in the river.

Dr. Gant pointed out that his organization is acting only in an advisory capacity. SREB, he said, is composed of a small headquarters staff to which are attached representatives from various institutes, universities and scientific organizations.

The SREB carries on an extensive program of study into many fields ranging from pulp and paper making research to medicine. The organization is supported by appropriations from the 14 Southern states it serves. SREB is the only organization of its kind in the United States.