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Coast Guard Approval for Connection to USC Catalina Campus


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The USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies brings together all of the marine and environmental sciences at the University of Southern California. The jewel in the crown is…

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Travel to the USC campus on Catalina Island became much easier in early April when the U.S. Coast Guard approved passenger travel on a boat owned by USC and operated by the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. The Zephyrus is 45 feet long and is approved for up to 20 passengers and two crew members. Its primary service will be daily roundtrips between its homeport in San Pedro and the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island near Two Harbors.

The Zephyrus will make the 20-mile trip across the San Pedro Channel year round.

"We need regular access to the USC campus on Catalina Island the same way we need access to every USC campus around Los Angeles," said Dr. Donal T. Manahan, the Director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. "Now we can offer a daily commuter shuttle to our island campus. This is an exciting new development - it will dramatically improve the environmental research and education programs we can offer on Catalina Island."

The Zephyrus made its maiden voyage Tuesday (April 7) when it left San Pedro carrying eight students for a class on natural history taught by Professor Gerald Bakus of the Department of Biological Sciences.

USC acquired Zephyrus in October 2008, but before it could put the boat into service it needed to meet stringent Coast Guard requirements that apply to commercial passenger travel. The reason has to do with the USC students who will be passengers, said Gerry Smith, the waterfront and safety officer for the Wrigley Institute. The students do not have to pay USC for transportation to and from Catalina Island, but the tuition they've paid puts them in the category of paying customers according to Coast Guard regulations. To meet Coast Guard requirements, USC had to substantially upgrade the boat's electrical and safety systems and install two new life rafts, each with a capacity of 20 people.

Smith said regular operation of Zephyrus gives the Wrigley Institute more flexibility in getting people to and from the USC campus on Catalina Island.

"We control the schedule and availability, and that's especially important in the off-season," he said. "Commercial ferries only service our part of Catalina Island once a week in the winter."

The need for this flexibility can be seen in the schedule for the first month the Zephyrus went into service. There are USC passengers booked for every trip planned during April.

The Zephyrus is intended to carry members of the USC community to and from the USC marine labs located on Big Fisherman's Cove, which is near the small community of Two Harbors. It does not run from the mainland to the tourist community of Avalon.

Travel on the Zephyrus is open to the Trojan Family - faculty, students, staff and official guests - and there is no charge to them for the service. However, there are rules that will be enforced for all travel:

  • The boat will leave on time, with or without all passengers listed on the manifest.
  • Closed-toed shoes are mandatory for all passengers.
  • Smoking is prohibited.

To arrange travel for individuals to the Wrigley Marine Science Center, contact Denise Grills by phone at (310) 510-0811 or by e-mail at For group travel, contact Katie Chvostal at (310) 510-4015 or by email at

To learn more about environmental studies in USC College and other programs at the Wrigley Marine Science Center, please see the following video:


Read more articles from USC College Magazine's Spring/Summer 2009 issue.