Monday, April 21, 2014

A Night on the Battleship Texas

Joe Lippeatt, the organizer for Houston Photowalks, arranged a unique and interesting photography meetup—a night aboard the Battleship Texas that is anchored in the Houston Ship Channel at the San Jacinto Battleground. Over the years I have taken many photographs of and on board the Texas, but wasn’t aware they had an overnight program. We boarded a little after 5 pm on Friday evening and disembarked at 10am Saturday.

Most of the time was spent on guided tours of the ship. They did pause so we could take photographs. The thrust of the tour is on history and, of course, few ships have a longer history than the Texas. She was built in 1912, commissioned in 1914 and decommissioned in 1948. She launched the first aircraft from a ship; served in World War I and fired the very first shot from American forces in World War II at Omaha Beach. She was at Iwo Jima when the Marines made the first amphibious assault in the Pacific. 

I didn’t do a lot of photographs that I liked during the tours. It was interesting to get onto the bridge, inside the gun turrets and below the second deck, all of which are normally closed to the public. Back in the Seventies when I first went aboard the Texas those places were open, but a lot of restoration has been done and maintaining the areas for historical purposes as well as safety issues has changed. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about not only the history of the Texas but in explaining the purposes of all the compartments, nooks and crannies of the vessel. It was very enjoyable. 

Reveille sounded at 6:30 am. Hardly mattered to me since I spent most of the night sitting on the foot of a ladder reading The History of Photography. I often cannot go to sleep in unusual circumstances so I made sure to take a book. Didn’t think I should count on there being a television. I made an attempt to go to sleep around three something but wasn’t successful so I was back up by five. My bunk was on the third tier and at 75 an adventure getting in and out of. In the service I only spent one night aboard a ship, a troop transport during an amphibious landing exercise off the coast of California—we captured it. Darn! So spending the night aboard the Texas was an experience.

After breakfast the main deck and above deck tours began. Since the ship does not normally open to the public until 10 am, being on board during early morning light was the best part. The bow faces the east so the light there was particularly good and I probably overshot the anchor chain, but I like the feeling of weight and power in many of the photographs even though there is little in them to give a sense of scale.

I had been on the Texas less than a month ago and did a lot of photographs so I tried this time to shoot different things, wasn’t always easy because you are always attracted to the same things. Anyway, I had a great time. Thanks, Joe!

Alex Hoists the Anchor by Hand
Juan Trying On the Gear of the Gun Captain
At Night from the Gangplank Along the Starboard Side with the San Jacinto Monument in the Distance

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