Photo By Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle
Barbara Misto, left, logistics manager of SmartGeoMetrics, and Virginia Morrill, chief technologist, use a Leica HDS7000 laser scanner to produce a 3D representation of Elissa in dry dock at Bollinger Shipyards.
GALVESTON – After nearly four months in dry dock, the official Texas tall ship Elissa is scheduled to sail back to its berth in Galveston Harbor on Saturday with a new bottom and a three-dimensional color map of the entire vessel.
A flotilla of private sailboats will escort the Elissa as it makes its way from a Texas City shipyard to Galveston Island. The Elissa is expected to arrive at about 12:30 p.m. at Galveston Harbor, where it will be greeted by a fireboat shooting an arch from its water cannon. The return will be streamed online at galvestonhistory.org.
The ship is expected to enter its refurbished berth at the Texas Seaport Museum at Pier 22 about 1 p.m. Hurricane Ike severely damaged the dock in 2008, and repairs were recently completed.
Once in port, preparations will begin for replacing its deck with 22,000 board feet of Douglas-fir, said Jamie White, museum director.
About 1,900 square feet of steel was welded to the ship’s iron bottom, White said. About 65 percent of the ship’s original iron hull and superstructure remain, he said.
The entire project is expected to cost about $1.5 million, nearly all it of from federal disaster funds, White said.
The U.S. Coast Guard yanked the sailing rights of the 1877 barque following an inspection in January 2011 that found the iron plates on its hull were nearly eaten through in places. The unusually rapid deterioration was traced to an electric cable torn loose by Hurricane Ike that speeded up a natural process called electrolysis, which eats away at the iron.
As the Elissa prepared to leave dry dock Thursday, two crews from Houston-based SmartGeoMetrics used laser scanners to map the hull, then began mapping the interior to create a 3D image that will provide a detailed historical record of the ship.
“The laser scanning will pick up very minute pieces of information, allowing you to see things that are not visible to the human eye,” said Douglas Smith, SmartGeoMetrics vice president.
Photo By Melissa Phillip/Staff
Shown through the propeller, Travis Davis, left, and Richard Lasater photograph the Elissa as part of the 3D process.
First of its kind
White said the Elissa is the first seaworthy historical vessel to undergo laser scanning, a technique developed for use on the Battleship Texas at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte. The Texas was scanned in 2011, and some of the scans have been used to produce educational videos like one showing how the ship’s steam engine works.
“The scanning and the ability to put it out digitally and send it around the world enables people to see and appreciate the ship without coming here,” said Andy Smith, Battleship Texas ship manager.
A team experienced in laser scanning from the Battleship Texas assisted with the scan of the Elissa, he said.
‘Akin to 3D printing’
After developing the technique on the Texas, SmartGeoMetrics used it to map the USS Missouri and the USS Constellation while they were in dry dock. The company is donating its time and equipment for a job that otherwise would cost about $10,000, Douglas Smith said.
“The 3D imaging process is akin to 3D printing,” said Richard Lasater, SmartGeoMetrics president. “3D printing is how you get a computer object into the real world,” he said. “Ours is the opposite, taking a 3D object and putting it into the computer.”
White said the images will give him an accurate record of the hull shape that will detect any aging problems in the future.
“It’s even going to record the paint drips on the hull,” he said, marveling at the ability to capture detail. In addition, the images might be used to provide a virtual tour of the ship to wheelchair-bound museum visitors, White said. He also plans to integrate the images into the museum’s film presentation on the Elissa.
“It’s almost like you can pick up the ship like a model and move it anywhere you want it,” White said.
The Elissa museum will be open without charge at 3 p.m. Saturday, but the ship will not be ready for visitors to board until regular museum hours Monday, White said.