That Sinking Feeling

No, this video wasn’t shot in the final moments of MV Explorer’s life above the waves. It was shot last Saturday, November 17, 2007, from stationary camera aboard the Texas Clipper as she entered her fourth and final occupation as an artificial reef 17 miles off the coast of South Padre Island. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website tells a great story about her various lives and final resting place. Here are some photo’s from Flickr.

Don’t know about you but this video really has an effect on me. Part of me finds it incredibly peaceful which might be due to the speed at which it unfolds. However, I also experience anticipation, anxiety and maybe even a feeling of helplessness as she gains momentum.

Sinking ships create powerful images.

Simple yet interesting video. How do you feel about it?

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Published by

Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

6 thoughts on “That Sinking Feeling”

  1. Hi Peter,

    Your description of the final Resting Place of MV Explorer reminds me in a way of the old joke about the radiophone conversation between a work station up on the Alaskan Pipeline, and the base support station down south in the lower 48.

    The work station calls and says: “We need a new helicopter.”

    The support station replies: “A NEW HELO??? Hey those are expensive, what’s wrong with the one you’ve got??”

    Field station: “It won’t fly.”

    Base: “What do you mean it won’t fly? Why won’t it fly???”

    Field Station: “Well, our pilot and our mechanic are debating about that right now. Our pilot says it won’t fly cuz it’s upside down. The mechanic says it won’t fly cuz it’s in 30 feet of water.. ”

    But humor aside, you mentioned a good point about how MV Explorer was an ‘old’ ship, in demanding service, and her watertight compartments may have been compromised. The news articles following her sinking did mention she had received several various deficiency reports in her recent inspections. Now, she’ll be inspected by Old Man Neptune :).

    But we seem to see this happening frequently in the decision to scuttle (or more recently reef) older ships, because they ARE older. A 20+ year old large oceangoing vessel, especially one that’s seen constant heavy service, is going to be approaching the point of diminishing returns on the maintenance vs reliability curve. Internal systems can be replaced and upgraded… but the hull itself eventually weakens under the constant attack of salt water and sea stresses.

    Consider the recent (and more successful) reefing of USS Oriskany — first Aircraft Carrier ever reefed. The Navy had tried to scrap her, but there weren’t any traditional shipbreakers ready to take on a vessel that large. Then they looked at making her into a museum — but her upper structure had already rusted and rotted beyond the point of safety for people who would be taking the tours. So she became a candidate for reefing. The Texas Clipper project made a point of using no exposives during the sinking, but they did on Oriskany, and her reefing went quite well at the end. I wonder if explosives might have helped Clipper go down straighter.

    Ah well, only Davy Jones knows now .

  2. Kingleo;

    Thanks for your comment.

    Considering where she rests today, we will probably never know exactly what happened aboard the MV Explorer to cause her to sink. John Konrad of discussed this incident last week in our new maritime podcast “Messing About In Ships.” ( We will be recording Episode 2 tomorrow night and I’ll make sure ask him his thoughts. We have a few other maritime experts who might be able to assist with some opinions.

    One thing about the MV Explorer that we do know is that she was an old ship in a demanding service. It’s not beyond reason to assume that her watertight compartmentation had some integrity issues.

    You do bring up the irony of the Texas Clipper situation. gCaptain also had an interesting post on this.

    Great comments and questions. We’ll explorer them on “Messing About In Ships”, so make sure you listen! Thanks.

  3. The MV Explorer sinking still puzzles me, in that I heard the hull breach was actually very small, only a few inches in diameter (?). Where were the Damage Control teams? Seems to me they could have saved that ship, with proper damage control actions. I know the Navy has saved vessels with much greater damage than this, usuing D/C teams, counter flooding the ship to bring the hull damage above the waterline, and so on. It SEEMS from what I’ve heard, that the crew and passengers didn’t do much to save MV Explorer.
    I could be wrong — comments, info??

    Contrast that to Texas Clipper, where they TRIED to sink her, and she fought them all the way. It seems ironic, they spent more $$ scrapping her in this way, than what was spent to build her back in ’44. I think what happened is the flooding started getting imbalanced, causing the ship to list as she went down. If it had been in deeper water, I think the hull would have righted itself after it went fully under… but in 135ft of water there wasn’t time for this to happen. So she hit bottom at an angle, then toppled over.

    I heard they were thinking of maybe righting the ship — are they still considering this? That would take a lot of doing, involving surface crane ships and underwater floatation… it would be very difficult, but if they’re gonna do it, they’d better do it soon, before that side of the hull sticks fast to the bottom. Comments?

  4. It is peaceful, yet very sad. I’ve been thinking about the way the sea swallowed MV Explorer all weekend. Incredible to think that the busy galley, dining room, staterooms and bridge that were all bustling with excited eco-vacationers a mere week ago are now resting at the bottom of the ocean, in dark silence…If you love ships, I guess watching one sink is bound to feel like watching a death.

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