Wreck Facts | Sport Diver

Wreck Facts

Bob Blake from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, asks whether it's really true that an average of three ships a week are lost on the world's high seas. Yes, this is a valid statistic compiled by Norman Hooke, senior coordinator of Lloyd's Maritime Information Services of Colchester, England. A subsidiary of the renowned insurance underwriting firm, Lloyd's of London, the information service reveals some other interesting statistics as well. At any given time when 50,000 to 60,000 merchant vessels over 500 tons are sailing the seas, 140 to 160 are lost. This has been the case every year for the past decade. Catastrophic accidents such as fires and explosions account for some losses, while others result from groundings, collisions and storms. In the 1970s, annual losses were sometimes more than 200 ships; some lost entire crews of 20 and 30 sailors. Hooke, author of the definitive work, Maritime Casualties: 1963-1996, notes the old sailor's song remains the rule: Many a brave heart lies asleep in the deep.Wendy Gibson from Hagerstown, Maryland, wonders whether there's going to be a shipwreck museum built near Baltimore's popular Inner Harbor. This idea has been fostered by David Hammond of Rogers Forge, Maryland, who is seeking the $5 million needed to launch the project as well as for property for the site. The Inner Harbor is a likely spot for what would be named The National Shipwreck Museum. Hammond, a stonemason who deals in shipwreck artifacts as a sideline, needs a place for his collectibles, which includes the 22-ton prop off the liner Lusitania. He also wants to house artifacts other collectors would loan to a museum of this theme. An unabashed admirer of ships, Hammond concedes that creating a National Shipwreck Museum is an ambitious undertaking. When I mention shipwrecks, people stop and listen, he says. They're fascinated by violent storms, mysteries and the drama of ships foundering at sea. The film Titanic has created an insatiability about anything related to shipwrecks.Greg Powell from Eagle River, Wisconsin, asks where he can find details of the Kiowa that sank off Au Sable Point, Michigan, in 1929. Fred Stonehouse and Dan Fountain, in their book, Dangerous Coast (Avery Color Studios, Marquette, Michigan), devote eight pages to the demise of the 251-foot steel freighter. The Kiowa, a victim of a raging blizzard on Lake Superior, is scattered in the sand 30 feet deep. Although part of the steel superstructure was salvaged, the bow and large sections of the hull remain in the shifting sands.Jim Edwards of Camp Springs, Maryland, is shipping out to Guadalcanal and asks about the diving there. Largest of the South Pacific's Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal was the site of some of the fiercest fighting in the island-hopping battles of WW II. The ocean floor is littered with Japanese and American warplanes, troop transports, submarines and landing craft. Iron Bottom Sound and the Bonegi Coast are two popular areas where the 6,000- to 7,000-ton vessels Hirokawa Maru, Kinugawa Maru and Yamazuki Maru rest on slopes 15 to 140 feet deep. Once considered remote and unequipped for diving, the island has several full-service dive operations now.Ken Thornton of Reston, Virginia, says he heard that Delaware area divers found some smoking pipes on a wreck off the coast. Joe Dauphin of the Delaware Underwater Swim Club in Wilmington, Delaware, says that he, Mark Wetsel, Mark Butler, and Steve and Sue Frederick all found clay pipes in 90 feet of water last summer on the popular Bottle Wreck. Many old bottles have been salvaged here throughout the years.Doug Rorex from Fairfield, Illinois, loves Bonaire and is interested in information on two wrecks there. One is an iron-hulled sailing vessel in 80 feet of water off Boca Spelonk, and the other is located southeast of Willemstoren in about 160 feet. Without names, it's difficult to identify these ships. Check with Bruce Bowker or Capt. Don Stewart the next time you visit the island. Any readers who have information about these ships may contact me and I'll include it in a future issue.William P. Carpenter of Las Vegas says his father served aboard two vessels during World War II: the USS Decatur and the USS Andromeda. He'd like some information about these ships. The Decatur is listed in Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships; 1947-1982 (Naval Institute Press, 1983). The ship became a missile destroyer in 1967 and was still in existence in 1982. More information can be found in the 15-volume series, History of U.S. Naval Operations in WW II, by Samuel Eliot Morrison. You might also want to write to the editors at the U.S. Naval Institute of Annapolis, Maryland, and to the curator, Naval Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., for more details.Vanessa Miller of Quincy, Massachusetts, wondered what happened to the steamer Aransas, sunk in 55 feet of water off Cape Cod. The owners of Boston's Joy Line weren't too joyous in the spring of 1905 when a schooner barge plowed into their ship in a dense fog in Pollock Rip Channel. A passing tug took the passengers and crew aboard while the Aransas sank. Local divers Arnold Carr and Jon Fish found the wreck in 1978 with side-scan sonar. They recovered pocket watches, portholes and silverware, and later, divers found the ship's engraved builder's plaque.Floyd Campbell from Florence, South Carolina, asks whether there are blockade runners sunk off Bermuda. According to Bob Westrick of Greenville, North Carolina, the Nola and Mary Celestia are two of the best dives in Bermuda. Sunk in 1863 and 1864, respectively, the ships remain fairly well preserved. Both were Confederate blockade runners whose boilers, engines and giant paddle wheels are still intact. 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. Ellsworth can also be e-mailed at editor@sportdivermag.com.