Sunday, January 27, 2013

Exploring Galveston

Odometer 27753 miles

Trip meter 0 miles

Distance from Oregon 3,802 miles

A picture perfect day today. Joan and I took the Toad (towed car) up Seawall Boulevard from our RV park toward downtown Galveston. Why is it called seawall boulevard? Well in 1900 a large storm's tidal surge deluged Galveston killing thousands and doing millions of dollars of damage (in terms of human life it is still the worst disaster in US history). In 1901 the Texas legislature approved the building of a seawall for future storm protection. This first section was 3.3 miles long and 17 feet high. It proved it's worth in 1909 and again in 1915, saving lives and property. It has been extended over the years to 10 miles long. The whole city has been raised behind the seawall- buildings jacked up and filled under-got new foundations. The boulevard runs atop the filled area behind the seawall and allows marvelous views to the Gulf.

We headed toward the harbor side of Galveston to see the Ocean Star Drilling Platform that has been turned into a museum.

Just as we arrived at the pier to go the the museum we were treated to a chance to photograph the Elissa, a 3 masted iron hull sailing ship built in 1877 in Aberdeen Scotland. The Elissa is the 3rd oldest ship afloat. An engine was installed during one of her earlier retrofits.
The museum has many very interesting displays, many of them are models of platforms and the ships that service them.
Here is a beautiful model of the platform we are currently visiting. Platforms come in 4 main categories. The first is the jack-leg style like this one. Large steel legs are jacked down to the sea bed. They can be used in waters up to 350 ft deep. The second kind is the fixed platforms-large erector set legs submerged to the seabed, such as the model in the top left of this next photo. These are used in waters up to 1500' deep.
The third type shown in the museum is the drill ship, shown in the top right of the photo below, which can hold it's place on the surface with precision enough to allow drilling operations at up to 6000 ft deep.
The fourth type of rig is the bouyant spar which is anchored to the seabed with heavy cables- shown in the bottom of the photo below. There are many variants of each type.

Drilling today is more than punching shafts straight down.
This model shows how several bore holes can radiate out from a single site.

By the time we had seen most of the museum it was 1:30 and we were hungry. Lucky for us there was Joe's Crab Shack right on the waterfront near the museum. Joan had her favorite- the fish and chips while I opted for a crabcake caesar salad- both were excellent. We were seated outside on the 2nd story deck overlooking the harbor.

While eating and watching the harbor we got the idea of taking one of the harbor tours we saw passing the restaurant

We hustled down the dock to see where the tour boats were departing from, and quickly found the Dolphin Bay Watch Tours loading for a one hour tour which took us north to the Houston ship channel and back.
The ship channel is very busy with a ship coming or going every few minutes. We also passed Sea Wolf Park on Pelican Island that features the Cavalla, a WWII Submarine, and a destroyer escort ship the USS Stewart. That might make for an interesting stop tomorrow. We also saw the ferry terminal and several of the ferries that take you north from Galveston to Bolivar Peninsula. We will be leaving this way on Monday to head towards Louisiana.
Once back on the docks we headed for The Strand, which is the historic part of Galveston, and conveniently close to Pier 21 where we were.
The streets were crowded on this Saturday afternoon and the Strand was alive with shops offering every imaginable meal, snack or beverage, clothes and more. Many people we passed were carrying beer, wine or cocktails, available from walk-up bars on the sidewalk. We were very taken with the architecture which features quite a bit of brick, stone and cast iron.
Jeff leans on a cast-iron building facade
This is the beautiful Hutchings and Sealy building built in 1895-6 and has survived all the hurricanes and storms since (one of only a few to survive the 1900 storm.) We headed for home via the Seawall stopping at the Orange Leaf for some frozen yogurt, and arriving in time for a stroll on the beach at sunset.

In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away - shing xiong

Jeff and Joan

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