BOSTON (AP) _ Thousands of people fleeing Hurricane Gilbert's path Thursday might wonder at George Zamiar and his two colleagues: They were headed toward the storm, steeling themselves for a flight into the hurricane's eye.

Zamiar, an oceanographer with Marion-based Horizon Marine Inc., will be measuring Gilbert's effect on ocean currents for oil companies with offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite some jitters, Gilbert ''doesn't scare me at all'' after flying into Florence, his first hurricane, last week, Zamiar said. ''I'm concerned, but this is what I want to do. I need the job.''

''It's a dangerous thing,'' he said. ''There's no doubt about that. Everybody kind of looks at you with the 'you must be crazy' look.''

Zamiar will joined on the mission by John Marwitz, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wyoming and ex-Marine George Bershinsky, who compared flying in extreme weather to combat missions in Vietnam.

''It's not that much different,'' Bershinsky said. ''You develop an extreme degree of alertness before you go into this. I don't see any major difficulties. We're keeping our options open, so if it gets too rough we can get out.''

The three men planned to converge at Addison County Airport in Dallas to plot the course of the storm before taking off early Friday morning in a twin- engine Beech Aircraft King Air.

The specially equipped plane rented from the University of Wyoming is large and sturdy enough to get through the hurricane, called one of the strongest ever, Zamiar said.

Water and lightning from Gilbert are a greater threat than the hurricane's top winds of 175 mph, he said.

''I'm certainly not a believer in when your number's up ... I'm a believer of that school that you have to watch out for yourself all the time, or else you'll force your number to be up.''

Zamiar will drop 25 probes, known as expendable current profilers, to measure the voltage induced in the water as Gilbert passes through the Earth's magnetic field.

The probes will be dropped on a series of runs just before, during and after the hurricane hits the Continental Shelf, where the gulf floor suddenly plummets to far greater depths.

A radio component will remain above the water and send data from the probes, which drop to the bottom of the water and develop a water current profile reflecting speed, temperature and direction.

The information is useful for oil companies and other groups building projects in the gulf that must withstand extreme weather. The 1,000-mile trip is expected to take about three hours.

The Air Force and National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration fly into hurricanes to gain atmospheric data, but ''as far as I know, we are the first private company to fly into a hurricane for purposes of research,'' Zamiar said.