Thursday, August 31, 2006


Shipwreck near San Jose Island intrigues experts


By Michelle Christenson and Beth Wilson
August 31, 2006

PORT ARANSAS, Texas -- In shallow water near Port Aransas, a mystery has shown itself, just barely. And not enough to know what it is.

Which is why a team of divers and a state archaeologist hit the water Monday to check out what appears to be a previously unknown sunken ship.

Steve Hoyt, the state's marine archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission, led the team.

After five hours of investigation in about 20 feet of water near San Jose Island, Hoyt has some answers but many more questions.

"What I know so far," Hoyt said, "It's a lot older than I thought it would be."

Hoyt said the vessel could date as far back as the late 1800s or early 1900s but Monday's mission was purely reconnaissance.

The team made eight dives on the wreck Monday and determined that it had a wooden hull and was steam-driven.

"We found the boiler, we found the fire bricks," Hoyt said. "If we had some more visibility we could get a lot more information."

They also found a lot of metal. Metal rods, metal turnbuckles and metal pins.

Hoyt said the next step would be to determine the vessel's age. If the wreck is older than 1900, it automatically will become a state archaeological landmark, according to the historical antiquities code of Texas. If the vessel is post-1900, it still could become a landmark, but that is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Craig Hlavinka of Matagorda is a volunteer archaeological steward through a program with the Texas Historical Commission. Hlavinka drove about three hours to dive with Hoyt and two others.

"The thrill of discovery," Hlavinka said grinning, "It's exciting."

After his first dive on the wreck Monday afternoon, Hlavinka still was smiling.

"Well, it's a big, rusty mess." Hlavinka said. "It's always how they look at first."

Dee Wallace of Port Aransas was one of the first to dive on the wreck after a friend spotted something unusual in the channel while parasailing in June.

Wallace dived down to look at it a few times and said he thinks it's an old steam barge, but he has no information about its history or how it got to the bottom of the channel.

SOURCE - Corpus Christi Caller Times


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