- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2017

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) - A high-tech shark research vessel is giving Georgians a chance to learn more about the science behind it while it winters in Brunswick.

Several dozen people toured the M/V OCEARCH during recent public tours last week, The Brunswick News reported (https://bit.ly/2iXLpWy).

Deckhand D.J. Lettieri said the vessel gives scientists unique access to great white sharks, which are lifted onto the boat for testing and then released.

The crew places a tube with running water in the shark’s mouth so it can breathe while onboard, and a towel over its eyes to keep it calm.

The Brunswick newspaper reports that researchers take 10 to 12 samples from any given shark, including blood, muscle tissue, parasites and sperm from males. A GPS tracker gets attached to the dorsal fin as well.

The OCEARCH is still in port for now, but Lettieri said it will head off the coast and the crew will begin looking for passing sharks in February.

Toward the front of the vessel, just before the pantry and walk-in refrigerator/freezer, thousands of dollars in sparkling fishing rods and reels line the ceiling.

“We don’t use these rods and reels for sharks - this is all for bait, dinner and fun,” Lettieri said. “All our sharks are caught on a handline.”

Other aspects of the ship are expected - cramped sleeping and recreation quarters, for example - but one part isn’t.

“This here is about a quarter-million dollars worth of bourbon,” Lettieri said. “It’s probably my favorite part of the boat.”

Jefferson’s bourbon, the product and concept of Trey Zoeller, a high school friend of OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer, rocks and rolls in those barrels on the sea for the Jefferson’s Ocean variety.

The idea came about when Fischer was in Costa Rica with Zoeller celebrating his friend’s 40th birthday, and the distiller thought putting his bourbon on the sea would lend it something special. It’s become popular over the last few years, with an average bottle now running around $70.

Around $150,000 a year from the sales of the liquor goes back into scientific research and education, the Brunswick newspaper reported.

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Information from: The News, https://www.thebrunswicknews.com

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