by Taylor Shelby
Charleston, South Carolina
March 29, 2005
The building seems small, but they manage to squeeze in an impressive amount of information. The first main area is dedicated to the La Salle Odyssey, the story of a French explorer and his ship that sank off the Texas coast in 1684. There was a massive undertaking to excavate the site, and the museum now holds a scale model and some of the really interesting artifacts they found. There is a well-done introduction to the history and science of the archaeology by video. It is broken up into a number of segments, and while all are interesting, the one where they empty out the brain cavity of a body found on the ship made me feel quite seasick.
The museum looks at maritime history in Texas and talks about all the major eras in the long history. After La Salle, they look at the history of fishing, steam power, and the cotton trade. There were a lot of different pictures, examples of paddle-wheelers, and a full-size cotton bale (they're huge!).
After steam power, they go into some of the history of the oil industry. They have some models of oil platforms and ships. The scale model of an offshore platform is very impressive, and a tiny model of the museum in the middle helps to show the massive size of these huge structures.
Upstairs, they have some of the history of pleasure fishing, complete with tackle boxes and fishing poles. You can also access the recreated ship’s bridge, which I thought was great. There were some kids that were having a great time. You can also try out your knot-tying skills in a small kiosk. Mine, sadly, were quite lacking.
At the top of the building, they have a small lighthouse. The views from the top are beautiful. You can look over the Rockport Harbor and out to Key Allegro. They have signs to point out the various sights you can see from up there.
The exterior of the museum has a small shipyard that has some fascinating examples of oil-platform escape capsules. They teach you about the meager rations (2 ounces of water per day) and the lack of toilets (one did have a toilet, however - I guess that's the Mercedes of escape capsules). That would certainly not be fun.
The museum wasn't spectacular, but it did provide some entertainment for a few hours. I was really impressed with the quality of the La Salle Odyssey, and the views were beautiful. If you or your family is interested in seafaring, it would be a good place to go.
From journal A Wonderful Weekend in Rockport