Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Remains Of Deadly Galveston Shipwreck Rediscovered


July 25, 2005

The Mallory Line steamer City of Waco, in a painting by the famous maritime artist Antonio Jacobsen.Yellow discoloration around the ship is due to the original varnish on the painting surface, which was only partially removed in an incomplete restoration job. Image courtesy the Mariners Museum.

HOUSTON -- The rediscovered remains of the state's deadliest shipwreck has officials with the Texas Historical Commission along with professional and amateur archaeologists working together to explore the wreck site.

The steamship City of Waco, full of the volatile fuel aster oil, was anchored off Galveston on Nov. 8, 1875 when it burst into flames, possibly due to a lightning strike.

All aboard the ship -- 56 passengers and crewmembers -- were killed. The only survivor was believed to be a large Labrador retriever.

The wreckage had been forgotten for years until it was found again 40 feet below the Gulf's surface.

Now, additional dives are planned for later this year and officials are trying to get more funding to excavate the site.

Texas A&M University at Galveston might conduct a magnetometer survey of the sea floor -- an effort that could locate anchors or portions of the ship that have migrated from the main wreck site.

"What we've done thus far basically was a visual examination," said state marine archaeologist Steve Hoyt. "We haven't really been able to go down with a tape measure or to start making drawings or address those types of details."

Weather, currents and limited visibility make diving at the wreck site difficult, said Andrew Hall, a former president of the Southwest Underwater Archaeological Society.

"We've barely begun this project and will have plenty to keep us busy on this one for a long time to come," Hall said.

The wreck site has been included on navigational charts since the ship's sinking. But it was essentially forgotten until rediscovered by a U.S. Corps of Engineers crew two years ago.

Corps staffers at first thought they had found the remains of the Galveston, a dredge lost in a 1943 hurricane. It's on of about 2,000 wrecks that dot Texas waters.

But the Galveston had actually sunk miles away. Hoyt and a volunteer assistant then found historical evidence supporting the rediscovered wreck might be the City of Waco.

However, only serial numbers on the engines will conclusively establish the identity of the ship, Hoyt said.

The 242-foot-long, iron-hulled steamer began its career in 1873 and made 20 round trips between New York City and Galveston before it burned and sank.


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