This is a part of an on-going series about Homeschooling opportunities while traveling in Galveston, TX.
This story was provided by Elyssa Fernandez, co-author at Wholly Art and one of our TexasTravelTalk Team. She also shares a pretty special name!
Homeschooling is a great experience for me and my sisters because we get to go on many special field trips, during which we learn and have fun. One of our more recent field trips was when we went to Galveston, where we got to see the Tall Ship Elissa, one of the oldest ships sailing today.
Elyssa Meets the Elissa
The first time I heard about the Tall Ship Elissa I was very excited to see her because she shares the pronunciation of my name! It has become a family tradition that whenever we go to Galveston, we visit her, and it’s always a highlight of my trips.
One of the first things that intrigued me about the iron-hulled ship was how she is named, because I didn’t understand why they had to specify Elissa is tall and a ship. We took a tour of the Elissa and the tour guide then explained that a Tall Ship is simply a large, traditionally-rigged sailing ship with high masts. Tall Ships are classified by the configuration of their sailing rig, and the Elissa is a barque sailing ship, because it has three masts, and carries square and fore-and-aft sails on her fore and mainmasts, but only fore-and-aft sails on her mizzenmast.
According to the Marjorie Lyle, the granddaughter of Elissa’s builder (Henry Fowler Watt), the name Elissa was taken from the Roman poem The Aeneid, where Dido, the Queen of Carthage, was originally a Phoenician princess named Elissa, who fled from Tyre to Africa and founded Carthage. This was very interesting to me as it could be related to my name, as well. 🙂
From the Tall Ship Elissa’s stern to the tip of her jibboom she measures 205 feet. Her height is 99 feet, 9 inches at the main mast and she displaces about 620 tons at her current ballast. Although the physical appearance of the vessel is beautiful, the most impressive thing about Elissa to me is her vast and rich history and how well she has survived throughout the years of her existence. She is clearly much more than just an old ship.
During our tour with other homeschool families, we (the kids) got to do a demonstration of the parts of a ship. We represented different parts, like the hull (the main body of a ship or vessel), the bow (front part of a ship), the stern (back part of a ship), the port (when facing forward, the left side of a ship, and the starboard (when facing forward, the right side of a ship.)
I was the starboard, and the instructor accidentally confused mom for a kid, so mom got to be the stern! LOL
I love how the Tall Ship Elissa is a world-wide traveller! I like to joke that Elissa is an immigrant, just like my mom, because she has moved from country to country.
Throughout the Elissa’s amazing history, she has sailed under six different flags (British, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Greek, and American) and been renamed just as many times. One of the things that makes her so unique is that she is a fully functioning sailing vessel in an elite group of ships, because instead of being a replica like many other Tall Ships, she is a survivor and original.
During our homeschool tour, I discovered that the Tall Ship Elissa was built in 1877, toward the end of the “Age of Sail” in Scotland. The decline of ships of her kind was because of the invention of steamships. Steamships were becoming more popular in this time because in spite of less space for cargo (because of the large engine), they offered efficient and quick delivery of goods around the world, less sailors were required, and resistance to the wind and weather.
The Elissa was commissioned by a wealthy Liverpool businessman named Henry Fowler Watt, and built by Alexander Hall and Company out of Aberdeen, Scotland. She carried cargos to ports all around the world, for a variety of different owners. For 90 years she worked as a freighter, and then her work stopped when she arrived at a scrap yard in Piraeus Harbor, Greece. Then, a group of ship preservationists rescued the Tall Ship Elissa from her fate of being lost forever, and restored her to her full glory, and in 1975, The Galveston Historical Foundation purchased the Tall Ship Elissa.
Thanks to the work of these remarkable individuals, the Galveston Historical Foundation, the generosity of the Galveston Historical Foundation donors, and the hundreds of volunteers who continue to contribute, the Elissa lives to not only to tell, but to SHOW us her history! She can be seen today at the Texas Seaport Museum, and you can explore her story and her beauty yourself.
The Tall Ship Elissa’s story of survival, perseverance, and dedication is a truly valuable part of History that I am very grateful has been preserved and kept alive. The ship is over 135 years and counting, and I hope her history is kept alive for many more years to come.
How do you keep history alive? Can you relate any of your own field trips to my experience?
I can’t wait to hear from you!