LIVE UPDATES: USS Kitty Hawk passes South Padre Island

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The decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk is getting nearer to the Rio Grande Valley.

The former Navy carrier had yet to enter the Brownsville Ship Channel shortly before noon Tuesday as people watched and waited from the shoreline of Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island.

Others watched from a number of boats that cruised the area.

“There are a lot of people. It’s very festive,” said Jack White, of Brownsville, from one of the watch boats. “A lot of people on board are happy—they are about to serve champagne.”

Crowds gather to see the decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk’s arrival at South Padre Island on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

Earlier in the morning, community members, veterans and others gathered at the Cameron County Amphitheater for a ceremony to mark the occasion. The program included remarks from veterans who served aboard the Kitty Hawk.

So far, the carrier has been delayed by hours from its original estimated arrival of 10:30 a.m.

The ship’s final destination is the port, where it will be dismantled and recycled.

The Kitty Hawk’s keel was laid at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, N.J., on Dec. 27, 1956. The ship was launched on May 21, 1960 and commissioned by the Navy on April 29, 1961.

It was decommissioned in 2009 and had been at Naval Base Kitsap as part of the Bremerton, Wash., “ghost fleet” until departing under tow for Brownsville in mid-January. The voyage has taken the 1,069-foot-long carrier and its 7,268-horsepower ocean-going tugboat, the Michele Foss, all the way down the west coast of the United States, Mexico, and Central and South America, though the Strait of Magellan in southern Chile and up the other side en route to the Gulf of Mexico and Brownsville.

The Kitty Hawk left the Port of Spain in Trinidad on May 14 before making its way across the Caribbean Sea.

Five carriers have been dismantled at the port over the last several years. ISL has done three of them: the USS Constellation (a Kitty Hawk-class carrier), the USS Independence and USS Ranger. Other shipbreaking companies at the port have dismantled the USS Forrestal and USS Saratoga. Berry said the Kitty Hawk may draw a larger crowd than any of the previous carrier arrivals.

To see more, view Brownsville Herald photojournalist Miguel Roberts’ photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Crowds form for USS Kitty Hawk’s arrival