Thursday, February 16, 2006


Shipwreck attraction salvages its opening


St. Petersburg Times
By Mark Albright
February 11, 2006

The museum in New Orleans opened days before Katrina hit. The Tampa owners are going to try again.

Five months after its debut was flooded out by Hurricane Katrina, a Tampa shipwreck salvage company's museum reopens Wednesday in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

"The hotels are thrilled the attractions are coming back and tell us a lot of people will be in town for the Mardi Gras, so we want to be among them," said Roger Kurz, vice president of marketing for Odyssey Marine Exploration, which built the attraction. "We'll start with reduced hours."

Odyssey's Shipwreck and Treasure Adventure museum was open for all of 90 minutes Aug. 27 when city officials urged people to evacuate what quickly became a devastated city that's trying to get back on its feet.

Workers spent the rest of the day battening down the hatches for the storm and moving the artifacts.

The museum, which survived with minimal water damage, explains Odyssey's archaeological excavation of a merchant ship destined for New Orleans that sank in a post-Civil War hurricane. The attraction doubles as a showroom to sell many of the artifacts treasure hunters exhumed from the sea bottom.

More than half of New Orleans' hotel rooms have reopened along with other museums and the Audubon Zoo. It's all part of city officials' ambitious plan to use Mardi Gras, which begins in a few weeks, to provide a media stage to prove the city's once-vibrant tourist industry is back in business.

About two-thirds of the Odyssey museum employees lost their homes in the floods. But Kurz said virtually all of them want their jobs back.


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