THE COAST 97 After beginning in World War II, the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport officially developed in 1952. Today 4,900 active-duty Seabees, 900 civilian employees, and 150 contractors are associated with this base. The military presence in Harrison County is rich in its history. On October 25, 1961, with the strong support of President John F. Kennedy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), created by the United States government in 1958, announced that it would build a rocket- testing site in Hancock County. Plans outlined that the massive project required 13,480 acres for the site and 125,828 acres for a buffer zone. Within the proposed buffer zone were the towns of Gainesville, Logtown, Westonia, Santa Rosa, and Napoleon. Gainesville fell entirely within the NASA zone and at the time counted ninety-one residences, two churches, two stores, one nightclub, and a school within its town limits. Sentimental attachment to the land was strong in the area. Residents who lived there and whose roots ran deep for generations packed up, often unwillingly, and moved. Sometimes entire homesteads were relocated, and other times, people walked away. In all, 2,600 property owners were displaced. In 1962 and 1963, the building process began with 6,100 workers and moved forward for the multimillion-dollar Space Age Project. The Project Apollo lunar-landing program was ready to roll full speed ahead. The center tested the main engines for each of the 135 space shuttle missions. Today, Stennis Space Center welcomes guests to its new Infinity Center that opened in 2012 as an educational tool in teaching the public about the space program. DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SPILL Located in the Gulf of Mexico approximately forty-one miles off the shores of the Louisiana, an oil rig known as Deepwater Horizon suffered an explosion on the night of April 20, 2010. Deepwater Horizon was owned by Transocean and leased by leading oil and gas company, British Petroleum (BP). The explosion, which occurred when natural gas broke through the rig’s concrete structure, resulted in eleven crewmember deaths. The environmental damage which followed had a devastating effect on the environment as oil and gas leaked steadily from the well, spreading thousands of miles across the ocean and causing irreparable damage to surrounding marine life. Early attempts to cap the well in late April and May failed; therefore BP resorted to a mechanism known as the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) cap. The wellhead, located more than 5,000 feet below the surface, was finally sealed eighty-seven days after the explosion on July 15, 2010. In total, an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. In addition to efforts to cap the well, BP, in collaboration with other relief organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Response Team, used a variety of methods to clean up the spilled oil. For months, oil infiltrated multiple layers of the ocean, making cleanup efforts highly challenging and complex. To break up the oil covering the ocean surface, known as slicks, over a million gallons of dispersants were forced into the effected water, and as much of the compiled oil as possible was removed using skimmers and sorbents. However, this method had some adverse effects, including a twenty-two-mile plume which hovered below the surface. Within months, oil had contaminated more than a thousand miles of coastal land in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Members of relief groups resorted to manual labor in order to clean contaminated lands and wildlife. Fish, turtles, birds, and more were found either smothered by or covered in oil. Researchers estimate that hundreds of thousands of seabirds died as a result of the spill, which will likely have long-term effects on the overall population. Precious coral reefs deep below the surface were permanently destroyed. This disaster is considered the largest accidental oil spill of all time, the effects of which are still being dealt with. Today, many scientists, researchers, and others are still working to analyze and understand the spill and its effect on surrounding areas, especially on marine ecosystems.