HOUSTON – The 100-year-old Battleship Texas, the last remaining dreadnaught that fought in World Wars I and II, closed indefinitely Monday as staff try to repair several holes allowing nearly 2,000 gallons of water per minute into the vessel, the ship's manager said Monday.
The leaks plaguing the ship, which fought as the USS Texas, have highlighted the need to enact a multimillion dollar plan to dry dock the vessel, removing it from the salty waters of Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel, where it has sat for several decades.
"The ship is not as good as she was. She's leaking, again," Smith said, the frustration clear in his voice. "I think she's getting persnickety in her old age."
The vessel first closed to the public earlier this month when a leak allowed water into areas of the ship that still held oil from its time in active duty. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the ship's caretaker, had to hire a company to skim the oil before it was able to pump out the water and patch the hole.
The museum reopened Saturday, only to close again Monday when staff discovered water flowing in from several different areas in the port and starboard sides of the ship.
"This is definitely not one leak, and they're clustered in two different areas," Smith said.
On the port -- or left -- back end of the ship, the staff found several holes that appear to be the result of rivets popping out, Smith said. There are three holes in one area that are almost perfectly lined up. Not far from that, water is also flowing in from a seam where two plates had been riveted together.
Even though these holes are smaller than the ones on the starboard -- or right -- side, they are in deeper water, which allows the water to flow in faster, Smith explained. The blister tanks on the starboard side are also letting in water, he added.
"It sometimes feels like you're chasing your own tail," Smith said.
The staff is working nonstop to repair the holes, and appeared to have patched up some of the leaks early Monday. Smith hopes the ship will reopen to the public next week, but it's too early to accurately predict when it will be ready.
"We're getting tired in general, and tired of fighting water," Smith said.