Historic Battleship USS Texas Taking In Water, Leaking Oil


The USS Texas is America’s oldest battleship. Commissioned in 1914, it fought in both World War I and World War II. Since 1948 it’s been utilized as a museum at La Porte, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston.

Now the vessel is in peril. It’s sprung a leak and is taking on water. So much water entered the ship that it started noticeably listing to port. The old oil tanks got flooded. While the tanks had been emptied decades ago, they’d never been cleaned, so oily water spread out into the bay.

The oil is being cleaned and the water pumped out. While problems continue, the ship doesn’t appear to be in danger of sinking. The Houston Chronicle reports the ship is taking less water now, from a high of 850 gallons a minute down to 100. Repairs will hopefully start Monday and the ship will be closed for the foreseeable future.

Despite its current troubles, the future may be bright for this floating bit of history. In 2007 a state bond issue raised $25 million to dry berth the ship. This would help preserve it for future generations. Now it’s estimated the project may cost twice that. Getting the money will be difficult in this economic climate, but the project would create jobs and preserve a major tourist attraction.

Check out the video to learn more about this amazing vessel.

Centre Pompidou-Metz Recreates Artistic Life Of World War I

Centre Pompidou-Metz, World War OneIn the first of a series of events to commemorate the upcoming centennial of World War I, the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France is hosting “1917,” an exhibition of artistic life during that bloody conflict.

While millions were dying on the battlefield, the arts were flourishing in Europe. Much of it was centered on, or a reaction to, the most terrible war the world had yet seen. A large portion of the exhibit is devoted to trench art made by soldiers at the front line. Some drew sketches of their lives; others did creative things with the detritus of war, like the goblets made from artillery shells shown here.

Works from artists on the home front are exhibited too. The star attraction is Pablo Picasso’s largest work, the giant painted theater curtain he made for Parade, a ballet directed by Serge Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes. This impressive work is more than 30 feet long and is rarely displayed due to its size.

In all, “1917” gives us a snapshot into a crucial year in the development of modern art. The show runs until September 24.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Vorticism: avant-garde art at the Tate Britain, London

VorticismIn the years before the outbreak of World War One, European artists developed a variety of different styles to reflect the pace of change and industrialization in what used to be a traditional continent.

Cubism and Futurism were two of the biggest movements. One of the briefest and most vibrant was Vorticism. The Vorticists started around 1913 and focused on the hard lines and quick pace of the machine age.

Now the Tate Britain in London is hosting a major exhibition on the movement called The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World. It brings together more than 100 Vorticist works from all the major players.

One of the leaders of the movement was Wyndham Lewis, although some Vorticists say the only reason he was popularly seen as the leader was because he gave more interviews to the press. He was certainly important, though. Lewis was the founder of the Vorticist journal Blast, the first issue of which had a hot pink cover and featured writings by T.S. Eliot and Ford Madox Ford. A whole section of the exhibition is dedicated to this journal and its groundbreaking design and typography.

Some of the rarer works on display include those from the many women welcomed into Vorticist ranks, a daring move at the time. There are also the Vorticist photos of Alvin Langdon Coburn, often hailed as the first abstract photographs. These photos will blow your mind and hurt your eyes.

%Gallery-126430%While Vorticism was mainly a British movement, this exhibition also explores its influences on the New York modern art scene. In fact, it was an American poet, Ezra Pound, who gave the movement its name.

The output of this movement was remarkably small. Blast only had two issues, and there were only two Vorticist exhibitions. World War One killed some of the Vorticists and left others embittered against the modern world. Yet Vorticism had a major impact on modern art and its works are still discussed and copied today. The two issues of Blast are still in print almost a century after they first appeared. One advantage of its brevity is that an exhibition of this size can encompass a majority of the major works, giving the visitor a full understanding of the meteoric life of one of modern art’s most intriguing avant-garde movements.

The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World opened yesterday and will run until September 4.

[Image of Workshop c. 1914-5, by Wyndham Lewis courtesy of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust]

Exploring the tunnels under the Western Front

Western FrontThe common image of the Western Front in World War One is of muddy trenches and artillery barrages. That was certainly the experience of most soldiers. But while huge armies slugged it out in the mud and ruin of France and Belgium, another war was going on underground. Sappers from both sides dug tunnels under enemy trenches, packed them with explosives, and blew them up.

The explosions were huge, like this one the British detonated under the German position on Hawthorn Ridge on 1 July 1916. The explosion used 40,000 pounds of high explosives and marked the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.

Sapping was extremely dangerous. Tunnels collapsed or got blown up by enemy mines. Sometimes mines intersected one another and there were hellish fights in the near darkness. Two good fictional portrayals of this war-beneath-a-war are the novel Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and the Australian film Beneath Hill 60.

Now part of that underground battlefield is being studied by a team of British archaeologists. After detailed research in archives of several nations they’ve pinpointed a network of British and German tunnels under the French town of La Boisselle and have tracked down who fought there and when. They even know where some of these poor fellows got buried alive.

Right now the team is using ground-penetrating radar to map the tunnels and will being excavating in October. Some tunnels can still be entered while others are too unstable or have collapsed. Eventually the site will be opened up as a museum commemorating those who fought underneath the Western Front.

[Photo courtesy UK government]

Volunteers needed to excavate Lawrence of Arabia’s battles

Lawrence of ArabiaA team of British archaeologists working in Jordan is tracing the military campaign of Lawrence of Arabia, and they need your help.

T.E. Lawrence was an English archaeologist turned soldier who capture the public imagination during World War One when he helped the Arabs rebel against the Ottoman Empire. After its disastrous defeat at Gallipoli at the hands of the Ottomans, the British Empire needed some good news from the Middle Eastern front.

The ten-year project started in 2006 and has already studied Ottoman fortifications, the Hijaz Railway (a favorite target of the Arab rebels), and an Arab army base. Besides traditional archaeology, the team is also recording oral histories of communities living near the battlefields. While all veterans of the campaign are dead, Arab culture is very much an oral one and many war stories have been passed down.

The project, run by the University of Bristol, is looking for volunteers for this year. Volunteers will work from November 14-28 in southern Jordan. The cost for participating is a hefty £2,450 ($4,017) but that includes airfare, food, and a three-star hotel.

For more information, check out the project’s website and blog.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]