Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Fog!!! We couldn’t see much this morning except for fog, but hoped for the best as we headed to board the Danny B for a Port of Brownsville Cruise. The Danny B is a 50 foot used primarily for fishing charters, but twice a week, for a few months a year, it is used for this particular tour. In fact, today’s tour was the first one of the season.
Our captain, Darryl Stiers, was confident that the fog would lift, and we’d get to see what we came for.
It took about an hour to reach the Port of Brownsville from South Padre, and on the way, we passed under the Queen Isabella Causeway, a 2.5 mile bridge that we’ve crossed many times this past week and a half, while traveling from the mainland to the island and back. On September 15, 2001, four barges crashed into the bridge, causing three 80-foot sections of the bridge to collapse. It was foggy that day as well, which contributed to the accident. Before the bridge could be closed, several vehicles plunged into the water, and five people were killed. The bridge was closed for about two months for repairs. People and vehicles were ferried off the island during this time.
We cruised into the Brownsville Ship Channel, a 17-mile channel that was dredged between 1935 and 1936 when it opened for boat traffic. The channel is currently 42 feet deep, but around the clock dredging will in the works to increase that depth to 52 feet. The $350 million project is designed to accommodate ships that come through the expanded Panama Canal.
The channel is home to many shrimping operations, from one boat to as many as 47 boats. The largest shrimping company was started by the Zimmerman Brothers in 1952, and markets their shrimp under the Texas Gold brand.
The Port of Brownsville is also home to several ship recycling centers. From shrimp boats to naval carriers, these ships are systematically dismantled and the materials are sold for scrap or reuse. Just last fall, five former Navy warships were shipped here for recycling. Those five ships were the USS Charles F Adams, the USS Barry, the USS Stephen W. Groves, the USS Hawes, and the USS Ticonderoga (the fifth US Navy ship to have that name.) All of the ships have had their identifying marks removed, so we couldn’t tell which was which.
Mark was especially excited to see “Deimos,” one of two oil platforms that were sold for scrap, and purchased by SpaceX for use as launch platforms in the Gulf. Moving the launches away from land will help to mitigate the loud noise that a launch causes.
On our way back to South Padre, we were escorted by several dolphins riding the waves kicked up by the boat.
We got a better view of the Queen Isabella Causeway as we returned to the island. It was still somewhat foggy, though, and by sunset, it was as thick as it had been this morning.