POSTED: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 4:57pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 7:59am
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS (KVEO NEWS CENTER 23) — In 2007, the 473 foot, 7,000 ton World War II vessel, the Texas clipper was intentionally sunk in the Gulf of Mexico. Since the sinking a group of University of Texas at Brownsville professors and graduate students has been contracted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife to monitor the Clipper, that is now acting as an artificial reef. The clipper is now home to around 90 different fish species.
"Gulf of Mexico is unconsolidated, so there is nothing out there, so when you put those structures out there it is acting as an island of opportunity, condominium so to speak, they are in water trying to find a place to settle onto, and they gravitating to this structure."said UTB Biological Science Chairman Dr. David Hicks.
Newscenter 23 is joining the crew as they take off from the Port Isabel to the site of the Clipper.
As we head farther offshore you really see how beautiful the bright blue water is, and we even see some dolphins.
As continue on, we see the Texas Parks and Wildlife marker, that means we are at the site of the Clipper. The first thing the crew does is set up a high tech device that will go into the water.
"What we have is a tow fish we are going to deploy our sonar unit to get an image of the clipper on both sides to see what we are going to be diving on here, and also get a map so we know where we are when we deploy the ROV."said Biological Science Associate Professor Dr. Richard Kline.
Doctor Carlos Cintra is an Associate professor part of the Environmental Science Program.
"We have been collecting data on the fowling community, which is all the organisms that are growing in the structure mainly the macro Invertebrates, like sea urchins and sea cucumbers."said Cintra.
"These are my two data loggers; this is what records all information given off by several of red snappers that have been implanted with the transmitter within them."said UTB Graduate student Andres Garcia.
Garcia has been working for more than a year on his thesis about red snapper and their habitat at the clipper.
"We are seeing in the data that the red snapper are making it a home, some residents for over 250 days almost going onto a year, it is really valuable information about red snapper here in the gulf." Said Garcia
For the first time in their research, the team is deploying this high tech submersible remotely operated vehicle.
"We are testing it out to see if it will be useful in doing fish survey's it allows us to go deeper than divers, this has a depth rating of 500 feet."said Hicks.
The ROV is operated with a controller similar to one used for a video game.
"The clarity of the camera is good it is easy to control down there, we are seeing all the fish we would see on a regular diver survey, so it is looking good."
The crews says this was another successful day of research and data collecting that will help Texas Parks and Wildlife keep records of this great treasure at the bottom of the gulf, as a result of the Clipper's transformation from wreck to reef.