Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 13, 1918

On this day in 1918, a U.S. Navy ship failed to arrive in Baltimore as scheduled.

No trace of the ship has ever been found. To this day, it remains a complete mystery, and the largest unexplained loss of life in U.S. Naval history (306 passengers and crew)

The ship was the collier U.S.S. Cyclops. A collier was a ship designed specifically to carry coal (the 1918 equivalent of an oil tanker), though on the last trip she had a cargo of manganese ore. The Cyclops was a reasonably large ship, 542 feet long (165m) and just under 20,000 tons. And she vanished without a trace.

The ship was en route from Brazil to Baltimore when she disappeared. Much has been made over the captain's (George Worley) health & temperament, and his possible pro-German leanings (this was during World War I) but nothing has ever been substantiated. An extensive check of German archives after the war turned up no evidence of the ship having been sunk or captured by hostile action.

Realistically, the ship likely sank in a storm, or due to major structural failure. I'm not a believer in the Bermuda Triangle or more exotic theories of things that vanish. Lawrence Kusche, in his excellent 1975 book "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved" postulated a storm sinking the ship, which already had known mechanical problems.

In 1968 diver Dean Hawes reported finding wreckage of a ship that matched the Cyclops description off Norfolk. Subsequent attempts to locate this wreck have been unsuccessful. And there have been several.

There are a handful of mysteries I'd love to see solved in my lifetime. This is one of them.


Pale said...

Very interesting.

Have you ever read Ship Of Gold In The Deep Blue Sea? Really fascinating non-fiction. I would have never thought it was my cup of tea, but people (reader's readers) kept raving about it. When I finally read it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I bet that guy could find it.


Carol said...

What a fascinating story. Makes you realize how vast the ocean is, for something this size to disappear without a trace. I hope you find the solution to this mystery.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

PaleMother- yeah, that's a good book.

Cyclops is harder though, because there were no surviving witnesses to where it was lost. Somewhere between the Caribbean and Baltimore covers a huge area.

The Central America, the ship featured in that book, had many survivors, and the sinking was witnessed by a rescue ship. So there was a decent idea of where to start looking.

J-Quell'n said...

Dang...before I got to the bottom, I was thinking Bermuda Triangle.

Interesting story, Grumps!

student dr. blaze said...

wow. you'd think they'd have some way to look for such things via satellite or sonar these days. amazing to think that something so big could disappear so easily.

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