Thursday, March 24, 2016 3:40 pm
Assistant Secretary of U.S. Navy, Dennis McGinn, on Thursday, said for nearly a century, the fate of the U.S. Navy tugboat Conestoga and its crew of 56 was one of the murkiest maritime mysteries.
U.S. authorities said they had found it on the ocean floor just 50 kilometres from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
“Thanks to modern science and to cooperation between agencies, the fate of Conestoga is no longer a mystery,’’ McGinn said in a press release.
The statement said that the ship set off from San Francisco Bay on March 25, 1921, headed across the Pacific to Pearl Harbour in what was then the U.S. territory of Hawai’i.
It added that weather logs from that day showed heavy seas and winds whipped up to more than 60 kilometres per hour, while the Conestoga radioed another ship that it was battling a storm.
It noted that it was the last ever heard from the tugboat.
“When it missed its scheduled arrival in Hawai’i in April that year, the Navy mounted a massive search mission.
“A lifeboat turned up off the coast of Mexico a month later, but the Conestoga was never seen again,’’ it stressed.
A 2009 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) survey of the ocean floor near the Farallon Islands just off of San Francisco showed what appeared to be a previously unknown shipwreck, 57 metres beneath the surface.
However, it took until October 2015 for the Navy to send an archaeologist and senior Navy officers on a mission to confirm that it was the Conestoga.
NOAA said that underwater video images showed the ship is largely intact, save for a wooden deck which has collapsed into the hull.
According to the NOAA press release, no human remains were observed during the dives.
The shipwreck is protected by a U.S. law that prohibits unauthorised disturbance of sunken military vessels owned by the U.S. government.
NOAA said that after nearly a century under water, it is draped in anemones and inhabited by wolf eels and other marine life.