-5.2 C
New York

U.S. Ship Sunk by Germans in 1917 Is Found Off English Coast


The wreck of the primary U.S. Navy destroyer lost to enemy motion has been found off the coast of southwest England, 105 years after it was sunk by a German submarine.

A team of British divers announced the find on Facebook last week, saying it was thrilled to have positioned the World War I ship, the usS. Jacob Jones, about 60 nautical miles south of Newlyn, a fishing harbor in Cornwall.

Rick Ayrton, a retired dentist and one in every of the six divers on the expedition, said that when he reached the ship, which lies nearly 400 feet (120 meters) below the ocean’s surface, he could see the bottom of a gun mount on the deck of the ship, an indication that it had been a warship, not a cargo vessel.

Then, Mr. Ayrton found its rusty bell, lying within the mud to the side of the ship. He turned it upright, and once he made out the name “Jacob” on its side, the divers knew that they had the correct ship, which was named for a U.S. Navy officer from the early nineteenth century.

“We whooped through our respiration apparatuses, and we shook hands,” said Mr. Ayrton, who lives near Bristol, England. After spending about 20 minutes exploring the 260-foot shipwreck, the divers returned to the ocean’s surface, which took about three hours.

Mark Dixon, the leader of the diving group, called Darkstar, said the team’s members were elated when it found the shipwreck on Aug. 11. “It’s like a football team or baseball team that just won the trophy,” he said. (Just the day before, he noted, the group dove to a different goal that turned out to be a unique shipwreck.)

The seas off the coast of Britain are crammed with hundreds of shipwrecks. But finding specific ones may be exceptionally difficult and dangerous, with some lying several hundred feet below the ocean’s surface, like the usS. Jacob Jones.

Greater than a century ago, in 1917, after the U.S. entered World War I against Germany, the Jacob Jones left Boston for Ireland, where it performed rescue operations, picking up survivors from British steamships that had been hit by German submarines and escorting convoys through dangerous waters.

On Dec. 6, 1917, the warship left Brest, France, for Queenstown, Ireland, in keeping with U.S. naval records. About 20 miles off the coast of southern England, a German submarine torpedoed the Jacob Jones, rupturing its fuel oil tank. There have been seven officers and 103 crew members aboard the ship on the time of the attack. Eight minutes later, the ship sank, and 64 men lost their lives. Some survivors, helped on to life rafts and boats by Lt. j.g. Stanton F. Kalk, were in a position to escape, though Kalk died of exhaustion and exposure.

Because the warship sank, the captain of the attacking ship, the U-53, radioed to the U.S. base in Queenstown with the approximate location.

Out of respect for the ship and the individuals who died on it, the dive team members who positioned the shipwreck didn’t remove anything from the location, Mr. Ayrton said. “For all of our excitement and adventure now, they were fighting a life-and-death struggle over 100 years ago,” he said. Darkstar is liaising with the U.S. Embassy in London and the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

Among the many first steps in attempting to locate the Jacob Jones was poring over U.S., British, German and French records to seek out out where the ship was most probably to be. Witness reports are sometimes imprecise, Mr. Dixon said.

“Normally the sinking positions are really dodgy,” since survivors are fearful about getting on lifeboats, not recording their exact positions, he said.

Dive team members consulted with Michael Lowrey, a naval historian and adjunct professor of economics based in Charlotte, N.C., who translated reports written by the German submarine’s commanding officer, Hans Rose, that included the position of the attack and an outline of what had happened. Researchers examined British and American archives and checked out decades-old sonar surveys of the seabeds and searched for anomalies that may indicate wrecks.

“It’s a very big deal, to be blunt,” said Mr. Lowrey, the naval historian. “The U.S. Navy got into World War I late, they usually didn’t lose a whole lot of major ships. The one destroyer they lost in combat was the Jacob Jones.”

After the invention, the Darkstar diving team celebrated over crab salads and ales on the Red Lion Inn, a pub in Cornwall, and planned their next adventures. Among the many targets: The H.M.S. Nottingham, a British ship that was sunk by a German submarine in 1916. Darkstar has tried to seek out it 19 times.

“Eventually it’ll be the one,” Mr. Ayrton said, “and it’ll turn up.”

Get the latest Sports Updates (Soccer, NBA, NFL, Hockey, Racing, etc.) and Breaking News From the United States, United Kingdom, and all around the world.

Related articles


Recent articles