By Taylor Hitt, NHF Intern
In May of this year, the battleship Texas celebrated the 100th anniversary of its launching. Of the eight American battleships open for public display, she is the only one that served in both World Wars.
During World War I, she patrolled in the North Sea alongside the British to protect against the High Seas Fleet of Imperial Germany and guided German vessels to Scotland upon their 1918 surrender. .She went on to be fitted with catapults to launch aircraft, received anti-aircraft guns, and was retrofitted with improved range finders and directors for long-distance naval gunfire. At one point, from 1927 until 1931, Texas served as a Fleet flagship. The interwar years for Texas included patrols in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and being a training vessel for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. During World War II, she served in the Pacific, Atlantic and North African theaters. In 1943, Texas performed convoy duty and saw action in support of D-Day. She also steamed to Iwo Jima where the ship bombarded the Japanese island. Later Texas went on to Okinawa where she conducted gunfire support for six days. Texas’s final duty in World War II was to take back home 5,000 soldiers. In 1946, she went on inactive status and moved to the mothball fleet in Baltimore, Maryland. The Governor of Texas, Coke Stevenson, campaigned to get Texas.
Given to the State of Texas as a memorial in 1948, Texas was placed at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. Since the battle at San Jacinto led to Texas independence, battlefield preservationists have been called to move the battleship to a different location, lamenting that school children sometimes think that Texas’s guns helped win the fight. The ship is currently under the stewardship of the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Commission.
Recently Texas has undergone a new battle. On the morning of Saturday, 9 June 2012, the crew discovered a leak that officials believe started sometime between Friday evening and early Saturday morning. Water was found in the engine room and pumping ensued but more water entered the hull and the ship sunk two feet over the weekend. Concerned with the possibility of oil seeping into the channel, workers placed of a boom near the ship for collecting any leaking oil. Other workers gathered oil from the lower half of Texas and filtered it out through pumps. The original hope was that the leak would be patched by Wednesday, 14 June.
But as of the 14th the inflow continued, slowed to an estimated rate of 100 gallons per minute, rather than the previously estimated 850 gpm flow that occurred over the weekend prior. The clean-up of the oil residue onboard still continued and underwater salvage teams were put in place to check the ship the next morning but were unable to go into the water that day. The 15th and 16th showed Texas in the same condition as before and the oil clean-up persisted. The dive and salvage team did not find leaks on the port side from Frame 86-133 waterline down to the keel, but they did however find a 4-5 foot trench in the silt between about Frame 92-93 and this evidence suggested that this was where the leak was; thus narrowing the possibilities to the following tanks: C-84-1-V, C-84-F and C-94-F.
Reports from of Monday, 18 June did not bode well as the battleship’s water intake was now in excess of 300gpm of water into tank C-94-F with a -1 degree list to port. The salvage team evaluated C-94-F and discovered about a 2 inch hole in the bottom of the tank near Frame 92 (past the second bulkhead outside of the centerline) or to say it in layman’s terms the 2 inch hole was found at the bottom of the last third of the ship about halfway between the outer most part of the ship and the centerline. It was believed the hole developed due the sheer age of the steel, the corrosive effects of contact with a silty floor below, and several years of the tank being flooded internally. When asked about the general condition below the waterline, Andy Smith, ship manager of Texas, stated the bottom was very corroded with lots of marine growth and that this type of leak could occur again in another place at any time. Upon this frightening discovery, the initial attempt to patch the hole backfired, which resulted in an increased flow rate coming aboard Texas. Around 4 am the next morning the flow rate rose to at least 1,100 gpm into C-94-F and the list to port changed to a -3 degree list. Although the oil clean-up was still going on, the bottom tanks were not accessible while the repairs were being made. To make matters worse, the salvage team was unable to find the leak before having to get out of the water due to lightning. There were two hydraulic pumps brought in to remove the water from the tank and pumping began around the clock.
Another update from Tuesday, 19 June only ten hours later, indicated that the intake of water was slowed to about 250gpm and about a -2 degree list. At this time it was stated that C-94-F was in a controlled state, with the dewatering of other tanks flooded during the day’s events ongoing. The salvage team’s next attempt at placing a temporary rubber patch on the waterside/outside of tank C-94-F was a success. The temporary fix was to control the leak and allow them time to develop a longer-term solution, it was not a permanent solution in and of itself as water still came in because the leak was not completely sealed and they believed there to be more than just the one leak. Things looked promising on 20 June with the water inflow down to less than 250gpm and only a -1 degree list. The team made an effort to reinforce their patch job from the interior of the tank. The patch seemed to be holding up as there was a negligible flow rate for almost 48 hours and they could not find other leaks as previously thought that were associated with particular event. It was reported that leaks continued in the Blister and Aft Trim tanks but those appeared to be stable, and although there was still a 1 degree list, it was projected that it would be reduced as more water is pumped out.
On the 22nd minor leaks were found and patched, plans remained to monitor Texas constantly for the next 24 hours, and the emergency seemed under control. The former estimate that the blister tanks were taking under 10gpm increased to 100gpm in the Aft Port blisters on June 23rd and a +3 degree list was mentioned. The oil cleaning operations had been continuing to the 22nd, but were postponed over the weekend.
Yet again, water flooded into the aft section. On Sunday, 24 June, it was estimated that the last third of the ship was flooded to the waterline and hard aground. Due to this horrendous increase in water inflow the pumping of the last third of Texas continued at a rate of about 5,000 gpm and as of 6:33pm (EST) on the 24th pumping had dropped the water level around 16 feet. The cause was most likely severe rivet leaks on the port side, about 25 feet up from the keel at about Frame 123-124.
While divers was able to put another temporary patch on the ship, this time on the blister tanks adjacent to the leaks, they were unable to reach the leak inside the blister. To top that off, a slight sheen of oil was detected in the berth in the early morning of Monday the 25th, thankfully contained within the boom and later dissipated, and the local Coast Guard was contacted as soon as possible. Later on the 25th, the pumping rate was estimated at 1,500 gpm and seemed to match, possibly gained on, the inflow. Texas’s list was to port, but it switched to a 2 degree list to starboard. The culprits behind the new list were leaks in the starboard blister, which were around Frame 122 and five feet below the water surface. The salvage team once again tried unsuccessfully to patch Texas’s leaks, this time from inside and outside in the Sanitary Pump Room. Tuesday, 26 June brought a 6 degree list to starboard and 9 patched places on the port and starboard blister tanks, including about a 12 inch hole. There was no water coming into D-26-P at the time, but there was into D-12, the only known leak to the interior of the ship.
The next day there was 4.5 degree list to starboard. Each flooded blister accounted for half a degree list and due to the continued pumping and another 19 patches on the starboard blisters the list decreased. All starboard and aft spaces were double checked either visually or by sounding to confirm their status. An update from later Wednesday, 27 June indicated that the list was 4 degrees to starboard and the leak in D-12 had been slowed by one of another 3 patches placed on the starboard blister. The oil clean-up continued; with the absorbents in the berth having shown little evidence of oil the oil that left the berth was confirmed as unsubstantial, but another oil containing compartment that was flooded was identified. On Thursday, 28 June the list was reduced to 3 degrees to starboard and D-12 was the only active leak into the interior of Texas. Another 8 patches were done mostly on the forward starboard blisters and the earlier mentioned work on an interior patch of D-26-P was completed in the form of a 2,400 pound concrete patch. While the ship remained closed again since the 23rd, it was Texas’s management that held on to its hopes that she would be open for the 4th of July.
Unfortunately, Texas was not opened to the public for Independence Day visits as two new leaks caused that plan to be cancelled. The leaks were patched but water was discovered coming into one of the blisters on her outer edge. Smith’s goal to have USS Texas re-opened on 7 July was accomplished and she was back in business.
For the latest status on Texas visit: http://www.battleshiptexas.org/