Effort underway to save Battleship Texas

June 21, 2010 4:24:49 PM PDT
An effort is underway to save the future of the vintage battleship, the U.S.S. Texas. Right now, the crew is using a rag to stop up a leak in the aging ship. But they are looking for a permanent solution. The battleship has been docked in the waters at the San Jacinto Battleground Historic Site in La Porte for more than 50 years. It's seen two world wars, and its current nemesis is Mother Nature. And while it's been afloat in 30 feet of water for decades, it will eventually have a new home on dry ground.

She commands about 100,000 visitors a year.

"He is quite fascinated with it too. I mean, I wondered who was controlling the tour sometimes," visitor Tim Timpani said.

But this national historic landmark that is the Battleship Texas is beginning to show her age. No longer on the high seas, rust is her only foe.

"Hundred-year-old metal sitting in water is just not a good scenario," Ship Manager Andy Smith said.

Highlighting that scenario is a rag. It's plugging the latest hole in her side.

Just last week, pumping was at an all-time high, after a pump in the stern went down. She took on more water and sank an extra three feet, submerging even more holes above the water line.

"Once they get below water, we start taking on more water, sinking more," Smith said. "The more we sink, the more water we take on, and it's kind of a vicious downward cycle."

At least three leaks have been identified.

However, help for the ailing battleship is on the way. In 2007, voters approved $25 million bond package to permanently put this Texas icon on dry ground. Another $4 million in private funds will also go to the design and construction of a dry berth in its current spot.

At 573 feet long, which is three feet longer than the San Jacinto monument's height, it will take on a new status in the world of historical battleships.

"It would be the first time a ship of this size, bulk and density has ever been put in a dry berth, so it's groundbreaking," Smith said.

Ironically, the tentative completion would be 2014, right about the same time Battleship Texas would celebrate 100 years on the water.

And the next generation of photos will capture the start of another century at the San Jacinto battle ground state historical site.

"That will be quite a feat then; be worth seeing, wouldn't it?" visitor Tom Barnes said.

And as engineers begin to work on design plans for the project, the next couple of years will be special for the battleship, starting with this weekend.

Saturday onboard the ship, a celebration of its centennial of authorization will be held. Along with a cake cutting, veterans of the ship will be on hand to answer questions.

The Battleship Texas is the only surviving US Navy ship from both World War One and World War Two.

In World War Two, the battleship was the only US battleship to see combat in Europe, Africa and the Pacific. In 1948, the legislature permanently anchored the ship at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. The ship is still open for tours and you can even arrange to have an overnight stay on the ship.


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