Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Save the Delta Queen

Final voyage for historic Mississippi riverboat?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Delta Queen, a wooden paddle-wheeler that's carried three presidents and a princess on the Mississippi River, will make her final overnight cruise next year unless the federal government extends her exemption from modern fire codes.

The U.S. House's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has declined to extend the 10-year exemption, citing fears that the ship, which was built in 1926, could become a fire hazard.

"I can't imagine the number of lives that could be lost if a fire started on the Delta Queen when everyone is asleep," said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the committee.

Under the terms of the 1960 Safety of Lives at Sea Act, ships with more than 50 staterooms must be constructed of inflammable materials.

The Delta Queen, owned by Seattle-based Majestic America Line, accommodates 176 passengers on cruises that include the Mississippi, Ohio and Arkansas rivers. The ship's owners have sought exemption from the rules but this year failed to win one when the congressional committee passed its version of the U.S. Coast Guard Reauthorization Act.

Coast Guard spokesman Angela Hirsch said the maritime safety agency has long been "concerned about the safety implications of a wooden vessel."

Majestic America said it is planning "a proper and well-deserved send-off" for next year's last cruises. The company also operates The Mississippi Queen and the American Queen.

An official history of the Delta Queen says she has carried Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter and Princess Margaret of Britain. Its famous calliope was salvaged from a sunken showboat.

The Delta Queen was en route from Memphis to Little Rock on a seven-day cruise on Monday. Its final voyage, unless things change, will be an Oct. 31, 2008, trip to New Orleans.

Judging by the reaction of the Owner it looks like they aren't too sad that the Delta Queen is going away. They're selling farewell tours. It's a shame that a National Historic Landmark and a treasure will be lost.

A couple of private groups are working to save her, One is Save the Delta Queen another is Steamboats.org.

1 comment:

The Bayou Chica said...

This is such a pity. We are loosing history. I have a soft spot for the Delta Queen being that I used to work for the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. way back when. I worked on the Mississippi Queen for a time and I truly enjoyed sailing up and down the rivers and hearing the folklore. When you were on the boat, life slowed.