Situated 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary includes underwater communities that rise from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico atop underwater mountains called salt domes.
The Flower Garden Banks were discovered by snapper and grouper fishermen in the early 1900s. They named the banks after the brightly colored sponges, plants, and other marine life they could see on the colorful reefs below their boats.
Continued interest in the biological diversity and breathtaking beauty of the reefs at East and West Flower Garden Banks led to their designation as a sanctuary under the National Marine Sanctuary Act (NMSA) in 1992. The algal-sponge communities of Stetson Bank were added to the sanctuary in 1996.
USTS Texas Clipper, 473 foot ship, served as a merchant marine training vessel with the Texas Maritime Academy at Texas A&M University at Galveston for 30 years beginning in 1965. Her name is reflective of clipper ships of old, both designed with a characteristic rounded stern.
The Texas Clipper lived several lives, beginning with its christening as the USS Queens (APA-103) on September 12, 1944, a WWII transport and attack ship, ferrying fresh troops into battle and shuttling the wounded from Iwo Jima. After the war ended, she was converted to a post-war cruise liner and sailed to Mediterranean ports.
The USTS Texas Clipper was commissioned as the first Texas Maritime Training Academy ship and served sea cadets at Texas A&M University at Galveston from 1965 to 1996. In 2006, Texas Clipper was transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Artificial Reef Program to be turned into an artificial reef. Today she rests approximately 17 nautical miles northeast of South Padre Island, TX
There are plenty of dive sites all around Texas to explore and fine-tune your diving skills.