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What Does a Large ‘Lady’ Named Elissa and Pier 21 in Galveston Have in Common?

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The Tall Ship Elissa is 3-masts of sea-faring iron from 1877 that barged through the Gulf of Mexico in her heyday! Built in Aberdeen, Scotland by Alexander Hall & Company, she has a surface area of ¼-acre and 19 sails. Classified by the configuration of her sailing rig, as far as Tall Ships go, Elissa is a “barque” due to the fact that she has both square and fore-and-aft sails on the fore and mainmasts, but only fore-and-aft sails on the mizzenmast. Measuring 205 feet in length, and 99 feet and nine inches in height, the ship displaces approximately 620 tons at her current weight. But who are we to talk about a lady’s weight? Let her tell you more about her makings.

What Does a Large Lady Name ‘Elissa’ and Pier 21 in Galveston Have in Common?

Photo: Wikimedia

Although the exact beginnings of the custom of calling a ship “she” are lost to time and history, theory has it that the practice of placing a female figurehead on the ship’s prow may have had something to do with it, but much more so than that, the possibility that because the early term for a ship in Latin, was “navis,” which was a feminine name that translates as “ship”, thereby referring to such vessels in a feminine fashion. Subsequently, the crews and their captains became regularly used to admonishing feminine pronouns in reference to their ships. As opposed to a gender-neutral pronoun such as “it,” the reference to a ship would then be “she.” Neither here nor there at this point, this “she” is proudly on display in Galveston, Texas for all to see.

What Does a Large Lady Name ‘Elissa’ and Pier 21 in Galveston Have in Common?

Photo: Facebook/Ship and Sea

Why Elissa? Well according to the granddaughter of the ship’s builder, Marjorie Lyle, the name was derived from “The Aeneid,” an epic Roman poem focusing on the tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage. Dido, who was originally a Phoenician princess, was named Elissa at that point in her life, and fled from Tyre to Africa, in the process founding Carthage. And like her namesake, the Tall Ship Elissa can be proud of surviving and forging on. Elissa is not a replica, as many might believe, but a legitimate sea-going vessel constructed during a time when maritime commerce was the order of the day. In a 90-year career, she traveled to ports worldwide with various cargos. After such a storied past, her rescue from the scrapyard was no less an epic, when ship preservationists found her in Piraeus Harbor in Greece and refused to let her go to a scrap yard. That story is beautifully relayed, complete with a video presentation and pictures at the Texas Seaport Museum.

What Does a Large Lady Name ‘Elissa’ and Pier 21 in Galveston Have in Common?
Photo: Facebook/Vadim Troshkin

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