Artificial reefs make it all real.

The Texas Clipper makes its final journey Friday, November 16, 2007 to its underwater resting place in the Gulf of Mexico, 17 miles off South Padre Island, where it will begin its new life as an artificial reef for marine wildlife.

The ship we know and love as the Texas Clipper has done many jobs and answered to many names over her long career. As the USS Queens, she entered World War II as an attack transport service in the Pacific, ferrying fresh troops and supplies into battle and carrying injured Marines to hospitals and safe ports. After a postwar makeover, she sailed round-trips to the Mediterranean in the 1950s as the SS Excambion, carrying passengers in first-class style. Years later, she was rechristened the USTS Texas Clipper and for three decades served as a training ship for sea cadets, in the great maritime tradition of Texas A&M University at Galveston. Her story is summarized here.

The ship was well known to members of the Texas Artificial Reef Committee when news surfaced that the ship was being replaced and would be scrapped. They decided it was time to add a ship to the reef program and that the Texas Clipper would be the perfect candidate, having a long history of maritime service in Texas as well as carrying the Texas name.

Cleaning Up the Clipper

The USTS Texas Clipper was transferred to the State of Texas on October 4, 2006 after nearly 10 years of negotiations between the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the Texas Artificial Reef Program. The ship was towed later that year from the MARAD reserve fleet in Beaumont, Texas to the ESCO Marine, Inc. ship-scrapping yard in Brownsville, Texas where crews removed all toxic materials, used blow torches to create large openings in the hull and prepared to tow her to the reef site.

After nearly a year of preparation, crews removed hazardous wastes, including 7,000 gallons of hydrocarbons; 1,680 cubic yards of asbestos; 393,270 pounds of PCBs in the form of electrical wiring, gaskets and insulation, and sand from sand blasting; 1,410 cubic yards of debris; and 330,452 gallons of waste water.

She was then ready for her final voyage.

Read a detailed report about the technical remediation work on the Texas Clipper here (PDF, 1.9mb).

Down She Goes

The Texas Clipper goes down.

A crowd gathered when the Texas Clipper began her fourth and permanent life as an artificial reef in 2007. Here is a fascinating short video of the sinking. Today the Clipper adds to the marine environment as well as to the South Texas economy.

Click here to see a map of the Texas Clipper’s permanent home.

Background

The Texas Clipper was built in Sparrows Point, Maryland by Bethlehem Steel Corporation for the U.S. Merchant Marine Commission. Her hull was laid down on March 2, 1944, the 108th anniversary of Texas Independence Day. She was destined to be a Texas ship from the beginning.

USS Queens

USS Queens

She was commissioned by the Navy as the Queens (APA-103) in December 1944, ferrying fresh troops into battle and and shuttling the wounded from Iwo Jima. The Queens was also part of the American occupation at Sasebo, Japan before being decommissioned in 1946. Click the following link to read more about the U.S.S. Queens.


SS Excambion

SS Excambion

From 1948 to 1959, she was commissioned the SS Excambion and served as one of the luxurious post–war four aces (passenger ships) for American Export Lines, luxurious ocean liners that routinely crossed the Atlantic and visited Mediterranean ports of call. After the war ended, three troop transports, including the Excambion, were converted to cruise liners and again sailed to Mediterranean ports. Learn more about the S.S. Excambion.


USTS Texas Clipper (1965-1996)

USTS Texas Clipper

The USTS Texas Clipper was commissioned as the first Texas Maritime Training Academy ship and served sea cadets at Texas A&M University at Galveston from 1965 to 1996. She spent summers at sea and provided an ocean-going campus for about 200 students at a time. They learned the workings of a ship, studied the world's oceans and broadened their horizons beyond the normal constraints of a classroom. Learn more about the U.S.T.S. Texas Clipper.

The Gulf accounts for 80% of all shrimp harvested,
62% of all oysters harvested and more than
1.4 billion pounds
of annual seafood production.

More than 140 petroleum platforms—with more on the way—have found new purpose as marine habitat in the Texas Artificial Reef Program.

Texas boasts 66 artificial reef sites ranging from 5 to 100 miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico—that’s 3,440 acres of prime fishing and diving adventure.

Seven reef sites within nine nautical miles of shore serve as accessible nearshore fishing and diving opportunities.

Red snapper, the most popular game fish in Texas Gulf waters, thrive around artificial reef sites. Scientific divers see red snapper at TPWD artificial reef sites during four of every ten visits to these locations.

With a few exceptions, the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is flat and bare except for artificial reef sites. Nearly 200 marine fish species have been seen on these complex, stable, and durable habitats among artificial reef structures.

Sixteen of 23 U.S. coastal states (or 70 percent) maintain artificial reef programs.

The Texas Clipper ship reef off South Padre Island generates more than $1 million for the local economy from anglers and $1.4–$2 million from divers. Anglers spend on average $460 per fishing trip, while divers spend upwards of $2,000 per dive.

Thirteen ships have been intentionally sunk as part of the Texas Artificial Reef Program, the largest being the USTS Texas Clipper. She’s 473 feet long—that’s 1.5 times the length of a football field.

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