all photos by Visit Corpus Christi
Do you know the difference between your fore and your aft? Have you ever seen a Binnacle up-close? Or cranked an Engine Order Telegraph? Ever touched a Careening Block? No? Well, buster, you haven’t lived! Or maybe you’ve just spent too much time on dry land.
A Network of Museums
Scale model of the La Belle, explorer Robert de La Salle’s ill-fated ship
Dubbed the “Official Maritime Museum of Texas” by the Texas Legislature in 1987, the Texas Maritime Museum opened its portals to the public in 1989 and has been growing, collecting and displaying artifacts ever since. One exhibit tells the tale of the French ship La Belle, shipwrecked in 1686 and excavated in nearby Matagorda Bay in the mid-1990s. The ship itself was found in an incredibly preserved state, including over 1.6 million artifacts – candlesticks, pottery, utensils, cannons, numerous trade goods and military supplies – found within, perfectly intact!
The Rockport museum is one of seven Texas museums on the La Salle Odyssey Tour and includes a dramatic scale replica of the recovered ship’s hull.
The binnacle (l) behind the ship’s wheel and the Engine Order Telegraph (r)
Don’t miss the chance to stand behind the ship’s wheel, upstairs on the helmsman’s bridge. Put captains’ hats on the kids and tell them to “man” the crank of the Engine Order Telegraph and holler “Full steam ahead!” for a perfect souvenir picture. Yes, yes, we know: You’re king of the world!
Careening Block, used to turn a vessel on its side for hull cleaning
As Goes the Coast, So Goes Texas
To understand the past, present and future of Texas, it is essential to know the coast. From the earliest recorded days of the nomadic Karankawa people, through Spanish and French explorers and numerous conflicts and wars, up through today’s crucial economic threesome: petroleum, tourism and fishing, the Texas Coast figures in to every historical nook and cranny.
Range lights, used in navigation, mark the centerline of a channel
Come learn how sailors use sextants, compasses, lighthouses and the stars to navigate the many bays and inlets leading to the Gulf of Mexico, and more importantly, to find their way home. See a scale replica of Bullwinkle, the largest offshore petroleum-drilling platform ever assembled (larger than Chicago’s Sears Tower!), requiring the largest barge ever built to carry it.
Scale model of Bullwinkle (r), the largest offshore drilling rig ever assembled
For deeper research, make some time to scour the rare volumes in the William A. Mann Library & Center for Oral History reading room located in the museum.
An Eventful Visit
Be sure to check the Texas Maritime Museum’s calendar and social media pages as well as the Visit Corpus Christi events page to learn about upcoming events, guest speakers, camps and museum fundraisers, like the annual Rockport Festival of Wine & Food. You’ll be shipshape and seaworthy in no time!