American Indians built convict ships in the late 1800s specifically to transport British prisoners to Australia. Although shrouded in myth and legend, the ships were infamously dubbed, The Felon Fleet, where cat-o'-nine-tails, handcuffs and leg irons were a few of the disciplinary measures used to keep prisoners in line. The Success was the commodore, or lead devil ship, of the 17-vessel fleet. In 1912, when it could no longer make the arduous trip Down Under, the Success became a tourist attraction on display along the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. In 1945, while in tow on Lake Erie, the Success grounded and eventually broke up approximately 2,000 feet off the shoreline of Clinton, Ohio. Although she's easy to locate in 15 feet of water north of the Port Clinton bypass exit cloverleaf, visibility around the site is poor. Divers can find the wreck marked on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers charts.Charles Slater of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wants latitudes and longitudes of any wrecks along the northern edge of the Grand Bahama bank between Great Isaac Light and the Berry Islands. There are lots of wrecks in this area and plenty of resources available. Start with Tony Jagger's book, Shipwreck Guide to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos: 1500 to 1990. Also try Treasure Wrecks Around the Globe: 900-1900 A.D. - Divers' Chronological Guide to Billions in Sunken Treasure, by Alan Riebe. Lisa Geist of Palm Bay, Florida, says she's interested in the history of the U.S.S. San Diego and how and where it sank. The 504-foot U.S. Navy armored cruiser hit a German mine in 1918 while heading from New Hampshire to New York. The captain steamed toward the barrier beach of Fire Island, New York, but never made it. The four-funneled pride of President Theodore Roosevelt's Great White Fleet settled to the bottom upside down in 110 feet of water. She's a little more than 13 miles off Fire Island Inlet. In 1987, Steve Bielenda, captain of the charter boat Wahoo, took a team of experienced divers to explore a newly discovered storage room in the bow of the cruiser. They recovered hundreds of bowls, cups, saucers, plates, platters and silverware from the china room, along with dozens of lanterns and brass fixtures. Divers can reach the hull at 65 feet and the stern ammo room at 90 feet. Be forewarned, however, that gun powder canisters and live artillery shells are stacked throughout the wreck and should be left undisturbed. The wreck has also suffered greatly throughout the years and has become a dangerous place to penetrate.Joyce Steinmetz of Strasburg, Pennsylvania, says she's compiling a list of potter's marks and designs on chinaware divers have recovered on the China Wreck, an unidentified merchant vessel sunk in Delaware Bay. Divers have salvaged thousands of pieces of British-made chinaware since 1970 when two wire-dragging survey ships stumbled onto the wreck. Lt. Commander Merrit Walter, first to dive the China Wreck, found some chinaware in crates and other pieces scattered on the bottom 40 feet deep. Research shows the ship postdated 1876, and its cargo was manufactured between 1870 and 1882. To help with further identification of the chinaware, contact: Joyce Steinmetz, 300 Heritage Ave., Strasburg, PA 17579; or call 717-687-8098. Joyce can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dave Dixon of Columbus, Ohio, plans to visit friends in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and asks if there are any shipwrecks in the area. This is the heart of Gulf Coast wreck diving, an area that stretches from Mobile, Alabama, to Pensacola, Panama City and Apalachicola, Florida. Many ships, some sunk by natural disasters and others scuttled as artificial reefs, are attracting divers now more than ever. The 387-foot freighter Antares, 350-foot battleship U.S.S. Massachusetts and 465-foot tanker Empire Mica are three of more than 50 popular sites off the Florida Panhandle. Details on others can be found in Danny Grizzard's book, Scuba Panama City. Jenny Murphy of Mesa, California, and her boyfriend dived on a strange-looking wreck about three-quarters of a mile off San Diego's Mission Beach. They are wondering what kind of wreck it is and how long it has been sunken. This is the El Rey, Spanish for the king, a kelp-harvesting vessel that became obsolete after 40 years of service off Point Loma and La Jolla. Donated by the Kelco Company and sunk in 1987, the El Rey was the first in a series of San Diego's artificial reefs now known as Wreck Alley. Sitting upright in 80 feet of water, the barge-like vessel's vertical bulkhead, covered with bright-red anemones, gorgonians, nudibranchs, starfish and other marine life, attracts underwater photographers with macro interests. Dan Malone of Houston, Texas, wants to know details of the discovery of old wrecks by divers aboard a nuclear submarine. A team of archaeologists aboard the once-secret U.S. Navy nuclear sub NR-1 found a large concentration of ancient shipwrecks 2,500 feet deep off the northwest coast of Sicily. Five ships were Roman, lost while plying trade routes from Rome to North Africa. The oldest, a 100-foot vessel dating from about 100 B.C., is one of the earliest Roman wrecks ever discovered. The wreckage is spread over 20 miles, a graveyard of ships spanning 2,000 years. Send your wreck questions to Ellsworth Boyd, 1120 Bernoudy Road, White Hall, MD 21161. Be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply. Boyd also can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
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