LA PORTE, Texas (AP) — Children shimmy up the barrels of massive cannons on the upper decks of the 100-year-old Battleship Texas, focused on firing at an imaginary enemy and oblivious to the tension in the historic vessel’s belly where a crew works on pumping out dozens of gallons of oil-laced water.
The battleship where the young tourists roam became flooded over the weekend. Staff arrived Saturday and immediately noticed something was wrong with the ship that fought in World Wars I and II and has served since 1948 as a memorial and museum to those who sacrificed their lives.
The vessel was sitting awkwardly in its slip. She was lower in the water and listing to the left.
“We got down to the lower portions of the ship and discovered that we had taken on more water than usual in areas that we normally don’t,” ship manager Andy Smith said. “They started pumping throughout the day Saturday, and it got progressively worse.”
The situation was so dire by Sunday that the ship’s caretaker, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, had to find more pumps to help remove the water. Smith said the news got worse on Monday.
Water had entered areas that housed old oil tanks used when the ship was still in active duty and serving in every theater in World War II. The Navy had emptied out the oil before handing the vessel over to Texas, but hadn’t cleaned out the tanks. Smith realized he had an environmental issue on his hands.
He hired a company to skim the oil off the top of the water and set up boom in case any of it landed in Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. Meanwhile, Smith’s pumps are working nonstop to remove the water from the bottom, and at least ensure no more liquids get on the vessel.
“It seems like every time we turn around there’s more oil because obviously it’s very residual but it spreads really nice, especially in this nice Texas heat,” Smith said.
Until the oil is removed, workers can’t get out all the water and look for the source of the problem, which could be several things. It is possible, he said, that the oil will be completely removed by late Wednesday. Then, it should only take a few hours to remove the water, though Smith said he is preparing for the possibility that more water will flow in for a short time after the oil is completely removed due to a change in pressure.
Still, he hopes to at least know the source of the problem by Thursday so the crew can begin designing a repair plan.
World War II veteran William R. Bradshaw, 87, hopes to be part of the repair effort. On Wednesday, he sat in a shady area of the vessel as rowdy children ran up the ramp. He was waiting to discuss with Smith whether the epoxy his plastics company produces can seal the holes, as it did in 1985 when the battleship had a five-month leak that befuddled the crew.
“I’ve always thought that I would develop a product that would be dedicated to the Navy,” Bradshaw said, proud that his company, Bradco Plastics, Inc., has had a part in ensuring future generations can visit the historic ship. “It’s kind of like coming home again because when you spend over two years on one at sea, you get all the cruise experience you really want. So it’s something that it’s nice to come back to.”
Smith simply wants to get to the point where he can repair the problem and move ahead with a long-term, multimillion-dollar plan to build a dry berth for the battleship.
“It’s a mammoth effort to keep her preserved. She is an artifact. She is a museum, too,” Smith said, noting that normally artifacts are preserved in a climate-controlled environment, “on velvet, under glass.”
“She can’t be that way. We actually let people play on the artifact, run around on her, and the artifact interacts with the environment in a lot of negative ways,” Smith said. “So we rust, constantly rust. There’s deterioration, the sun beating down, hot, cold, all of that has an effect, long-term effect, on the ship.”
Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com//RamitMastiAP .
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11