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Nov. 14, 2007
Update: The sinking of the Texas Clipper has been rescheduled for Nov. 17, 2007.
Texas Clipper Artificial Reef Sinking Postponed
AUSTIN, Texas — A ship with three lives — World War II troop transport, New York City luxury liner, and sea cadet training vessel — is about to make her final journey. Weather permitting, the Texas Clipper will be sent to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico Nov. 17* to become an artificial reef.
The sinking has been scheduled later than originally planned, because a cold front arriving Thursday is causing choppy seas.
The 473-foot vessel was launched on Sept. 12, 1944 as the USS Queens, a WWII transport and attack ship. She carried troops and wounded from Pacific battlefields and was the first attack transport arriving at Iwo Jima.
After the war until 1958, she was recommissioned as the SS Excambion, one of the post-war Four Aces for American Export Lines. She carried cargo and passengers in grand style between New York City and Mediterranean ports.
From 1965-1994, she sailed as the USTS Texas Clipper, a Texas A&M University — Galveston maritime training vessel. Dozens of former cadets who once sailed on the Clipper plan to be present when she goes out for the last time.
One thing will not go down with the ship: a valuable mural by artist Saul Steinberg, known for his whimsical cartoons in New Yorker magazine. In 1948, Steinberg drew a 22-foot wide cartoon mural for the cocktail bar aboard the Excambion. In the 1970s, the mural was obscured by overzealous interior designers. But in January 2007, as the ship was being prepared for reefing, the "lost" mural was found hiding under layers of wallpaper, paint and bolts. Some of it was peeled back to reveal lively images of passengers, ships, the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The mural is now in storage in Austin, and experts are trying to determine whether it can be restored.
As an artificial reef off South Padre Island, the ship could generate up to $30 million annually in fishing and SCUBA diving tourism for local economies over 50 years. The structure is expected to form the foundation of a vibrant community of corals and fish.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has set up a Texas Clipper Reefing Hotline to provide updated information on the sinking schedule. Phone (800) 792-1112, enter 9 and then enter 8830# to hear a recorded message with the latest information.
High-resolution photos, radio soundbites and complete information for news media are online. TPWD has also planned a satellite feed to provide video of the Clipper’s preparation and sinking for TV news use-contact Tom Harvey for details.
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