Texas City Disaster of 1947 Series  LbNA # 53497

OwnerGators 88    
Placed DateMay 14 2010
LocationTexas City, TX
Found By The Hobbits of Texas
Last Found Nov 10 2013
Hike Distance?

During the morning of April 16, 1947 a seemingly fine rain of oily mist fell upon Galveston, Texas while in Houston a rumbling reminiscent of a small earthquake was felt. What the inhabitants of these cities didn’t know at the time was that a giant explosion and fire had ripped though the booming town of Texas City.

As dawn broke upon Texas City that day its citizens began to enjoy what seemed to be a beautiful spring day. A short time later many would believe the end of the world was upon them. For many it was.

Anchored in the harbor of Texas City that morning was a cargo ship named the “Grand Camp.” In its holds was tons of an ammonium nitrate fertilizer that was to be shipped to Europe. There has been much speculation over the years as to what caused the initial fire upon the Grand Camp but fifty-three years later there has been no definitive answer.

Texas City in 1947 was a booming town whose many residents worked in the nearby refineries and chemical plants. It also was a place with a small town air in which everyone was a friend with everyone else and each knew the business of the other. On April 16th word spread through out the community about the fire upon the Grand Camp and the “pretty orange color that was coming from the black smoke.” As with any accident or fire a crowd of onlookers appeared to watch the Texas City firefighters in action. As word of the fire traveled, the crowd of onlookers grew in number.

The Grand Camp’s crew and possibly the harbor crews knew that the ship was carrying the highly explosive ammonium nitrate but the crowds didn’t or if they did, they were not aware of its highly volatile condition. Of course the standard procedure for dealing with a dangerously burning ship was to tow it by tug as far from the harbor as possible. For some reason this didn’t happen and at 9:00a.m. “The Texas City Disaster” as it will forever be remembered happened.

At 9:00 there was an explosion and a giant column of black smoke rose approximately 2,000 feet into the air. A mere ten to fifteen seconds later a second explosion rocked the ship, which created a violent shockwave, and fire quickly engulfed the Monsanto Chemical Plant in flames due to broken gas lines and containers. Within these few seconds almost the entire Texas City Fire Department was killed as well as the hoards of civilians and children still standing near the docks watching the excitement.

The industrial complexes around the Texas City area were at that time (and still are) connected by pipelines that caused the fires and explosions at the Monsanto plant to quickly spread to the surrounding plants. As at Monsanto entire buildings collapsed trapping workers within the flaming inferno.

Although the shockwave caused a displacement of the water in the harbor and created a small tidal wave that washed inland over one hundred and fifty feet, it did little to save the people from the fires.

News of the explosion quickly spread to Galveston, Houston, Conroe, La Port and Pasadena. Firefighters and police officers from all these towns went to aid in the work at Texas City and by dusk the town was full of rescue workers. Ambulances from all over the area were making repeated trips to John Sealy in Galveston as well as Ben Taub and other hospitals in Houston.

By night though new fears arose as another ship, the “High Flyer” had been burning all day since the original explosion and word was reaching the workers and towns people that she was carrying sulfur and a cargo hold full of ammonium nitrate. All during the day tugs had tried in vain to move her, all to no avail.

The fear of another explosion didn’t keep the rescue workers from removing the injured from the harbor and Montesano areas until 1:00 a.m. when all workers were ordered away. At 1:10 a.m. the High Flyer exploded with greater force than any by the Grand Camp.

As the High Flyer exploded she took another ship, the “Wilson B. Keene,” with her. A concrete warehouse and a grain elevator went up in even more fires and explosions.

On April 16, 1947 the town of Texas City had 16,000 registered inhabitants but by the time the last body was found a month later, six hundred were known dead. The exact number will never be known as many of the victims were incinerated in the blast and there were no remains to be found.

To the boxes -


The first box is located near the fountain in front of the Nessler Center which is located in Texas City on the corner of 21st Street and 5th Avenue. If coming in on Palmer Highway, follow it until you get to 21st Street. Turn right onto 21st (after the Jack in the Box on the corner). The park will be to your left. Continue down 21st until you see an entrance road into the Nessler Center. Take the immediate left parking lot. Look to your right and you should see an opening to the Phoenix Fountain. To the left of that opening is a parking strip with 5 slots in it. Park in the first spot closest to the fountain. In front of you is a row of shrubs. About half way down is a tree on the other side of the bushes. From the side you are on, walk to the shrubs directly in front of the tree. The Phoenix is watching over from the shrubs there. Be sure to check out the beautiful fountain close up and all of the life filled statues.

From here - I recommend the small Texas City Museum. It has a lot of history about this Disaster as well as well as artifacts from it and has a pretty gazebo and fountain across the street from it. It is an inexpensive way to get a bit of the town's history and revel at the resilience of the town. The address is 409 6th St. N. The hours are - Tuesday - Saturday, 10-4 p.m.
(Train exhibit open Saturdays only) - Adult - $3.00, Seniors - $2.00, Children -$1.00. If you do not have time to visit the museum, here is a link to a website that tells a pictoral story of the Disaster. http://www.texascity-library.org/TCDisasterExhibit/index.html I could not find a place around the museum to hide the box well enough for it to last, but did not want you to miss this spot or part of the history. If you chose to go to the museum, then the way to the last two boxes would be to go back towards 9th avenue on the street you are on (6th) - cross over 9th and follow it until it turns into 25th Avenue. (Loop 197) - should be about 3.7 miles from the Museum.

BOX 2 - (from Nessler Center)ALIVE AND WELL(AS OF 12/28/10)
Exit out of the parking lot on 21st. Take a right onto 21st and cross over Palmer Highway. Continue on 21st until you come to an intersection with 25th Avenue. Take a left on 25th Ave. (Loop 197) - On the corner of 29th Street, you should see the park just ahead on your right. Texas Memorial Park & Cemetery. Pull in and park in front of the anchor or kiosk.
Make your way to the large information kiosk. It will tell you a lot of information about the disaster and how the city rebounded. Once behind the kiosk, take a seat on the bench facing the "Memorial Services" and take a minute to reflect on the enormity of this disaster and the loss the city felt. Once you have reflected, look to your left and you will see a large column in front of some shrubs. The Anchor of the SS Grandcamp has chosen the shrubs behind this column as its resting place. (I did not want to hide it near the anchor since the area there is so high traffic and would be hard to be discreet about getting the box.)

BOX 3 - ALIVE AND WELL (AS OF 12/28/10)
After finding the anchor, to the right of the large anchor where you came in, is a large gate that reads Memorial Cemetery, Texas City, Texas. Enter the gates and follow the gravel path. You will see a beautiful woman grieving for her loss. Sit on the bench and console her. Straight ahead of you is a reflecting pool and the back of the beautiful angel watching over for beneath her are buried the remains of the 63 unidentified victims of that fateful day. She is there to commemorate the 28 volunteer firefighters who all responded to the fire that morning and were killed instantly in the first blast. Directly behind you, will be a historical marker about Texas City Memorial Cemetery. In the shrubs at the base of this sign (in front of the pole) you will find your guardian.

Please be sure to re-double bag the logbook and stamps so as to preserve them from weather. Please re-hide well and log your finds to let me know how all three are doing. Please email me if any of the boxes are in need of repair. Thank you for taking the time to look for our boxes.