By Ellsworth Boyd
Cindy Schifflet of Dallas, Texas, says she heard the Carpathia, the ship that rescued 700 survivors from the Titanic, was found, and asks for some of the details on the wreck.
I called wreck hunter and author Clive Cussler to get the scoop. Cussler said he and Keith Jessup thought they had found the Carpathia, but upon closer examination realized it was not the elusive Cunard liner.
A couple of months later, Cussler e-mailed me: My crew went back a second time, checked several sites given to us by an Irish fisherman, and found it. The Carpathia is sitting upright in deep water, looking like it's still sailing the seas. We plan to go back with an ROV and film footage for a documentary.
After the Carpathia answered the Titanic's SOS call in 1912, it continued in active service as a passenger ship until 1918. That's when the 540-footlong steamship's 16-year career ended, sunk by a German U-boat 170 miles from Bishop Rock, Southwestern England. Five engineers were killed when three torpedoes struck the engine room, sinking the ship in deep water. The British sloop Snowdrop rescued the remaining 277 passengers and crew.
Cussler fans will be pleased to learn about a new book, The Collector's Guide to Clive Cussler by Wayne Valero. The author has written a 260-page paperback about Cussler and everything he has published. Details may be found on the web at www.niks.net/valero.html.
Glen Morri of Trenton, New Jersey, explored the remains of the SS Mohawk, sunk south of Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey, and asks how she sank.
Outbound from New York in January 1935, the Mohawk's steering failed and she veered into the path of the Talisman, a Norwegian freighter whose bow ripped into the port side of the passenger liner. The 160 passengers and crew were ordered to abandon ship and subjected to snow, ice and freezing water. Forty people died before help arrived, while the Talisman returned to New York under her own steam.
Both novices and experienced divers enjoy the Mohawk today, exploring its scattered remains in 80 feet of water. Although the wreckage is scattered about the bottom, a result of dynamiting when she was declared a navigational hazard years ago, an abundance of fish, lobsters and artifacts make it a popular dive site. Massive boilers rise near the stern, where anemones and soft coral attract perch, sea bass and bluefish. Old bottles, tin ingots and chinaware have been recovered throughout the years.
Leo McLaughlin of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, says he helped remove a mast of a large ship and found some old coins beneath its base. He asks if this is part of some superstitious practice.
It is. An old seafaring tradition drawn from Greek mythology requires coins be put down beneath the mast as it is stepped, or set in place. If a ship and its sailors died without a proper burial, the Greeks believed they would be ineligible to cross the river Styx and enter the Underworld. The coins were set beneath the mast to insure that the ship's sailors could pay Charon, the Ferryman, to take them across. Many ship builders continue the tradition today.
Richard Weller of Torrance, California asks, Is the Retriever the Georgia or vice versa?
It was recently verified that the fishing barge Retriever, sunk off Redondo Beach, California, in 1951, is really the Georgia. Researchers Ed Ries and Steve Lawson of the California Wreck Divers compared photos of both vessels and determined that the 11 portholes recovered in 1984 by Mike Curtis, Dave McCray and Mike Hisashima belonged to the Georgia.
A photo of the Georgia featured more portholes and larger ones than those found on the other barge. Divers found them when they discovered the wreck in 120 feet of water about a mile off the Redondo Beach jetty.
Jacob Reidenbach, via the Internet, asks for information about shipwrecks off Bayport, Florida.
Although Panama City is loaded with good wrecks, I can recommend some a little closer to Bayport. Try the Betsy Rose, Doc's Barge and the Ten Fathom wreck off St. Petersburg; the Coast Guard cutter Blackthorn, the Gunsmoke, the Mexican Pride and the South Jack wreck off Tampa; and the Boca Grande, a freighter sunk off Ft. Myers. The Sheridan, a hellcat airplane and the Clearwater wreck are off Clearwater. There's also a barge off Bradenton and one off New Port Richey.
Many of these wrecks are mentioned in Dan and Denise Berg's book, Florida Shipwrecks. (Aqua Explorers, East Rockaway, NY, 1991). You might e-mail Dan and see if he has any copies left: wreckvalle @aol.com. Also try Shipwrecks of Florida by Steve Singer (Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL, 1998).
Send wreck questions to Ellsworth Boyd, 1120 Bernoudy Rd., White Hall, MD 21161. Be sure to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope for a personal reply. Ellsworth can also be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.