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AtlanticDivers

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Dear Wrecksters,
 
An exciting year of wreck diving is planned for 2008.  Adventures include a return to North Carolina, North Atlantic Adventures to explore a deserted islands off New Foundland and Nova Scotia and a fall wreck exploration in Southern Florida.  Those interested dive, dive,  dive...and  brush up on your travel wreck diving skills.  Local diving will include boats out of Va. Beach, Delaware, Cape May, Atlantic City, Barnegate and Brielle for inshore and experienced wreck diver trips.  Stay tuned for more. Check our site and join our forum at: 
http://www.njwreckdivers.com
 
 
Past History and Present.
 
Atlantic Divers charters members have explored North Atlantic Coast for over three decades and have been an active part of wreck diving history. Our charters have been on the tip of the sword discovering  dozens of unknown North Atlantic and New Jersey wrecks and  positively identifying more than a dozen known sites.
Tale of mis identified tankers:
http://uwex.us/NCtankers.pdf
Search for the General Slocum:
http://www.numa.net/articles/search_for_the_general_slocum.html
 
Read:
Shipwrecks of New Jersey: South,
DEEP, DARK, AND DANGEROUS ADVENTURES AND REFLECTIONS ON THE ANDREA DORIA 
and Ironclad Legacy: Battle of the USS Monitor
by Gary Gentile
  
Most recently, the Freighter, an offshore wreck site has been positively identified.    This exciting discovery of a World War II freighter lost without a trace I researched  and identified this summer. I was able to match the serial numbers from a helm recovered in 1994 from the wreck with a tragic war victim of 1942. The wreck is 53 miles southeast of Cape May in 165 feet of water.  In 1992 Bill Dumeze the captain of the red hulled clammer Arlene Snow ran over a snag  while fishing.  He contacted Jim Bowen an avid wreck fisher and the two left Cape May inlet following only a compass bearing to the wreck site.  Jim believed this was going to be some wild goose chase because Bill had recorded no lo-ran numbers.  After four long hours steaming at 12 knots to the middle of nowhere Captain Bill told Jim to slow the boat down and follow his bearings as he scanned the bottom finder.  After what seemed to be a convoluted course of bearing changes over a period of a half hour, Bill shouted to drop a buoy.  Jim Bowen looked over Bill's shoulder as a large spike appeared on the screen that looked like an ice cream cone with a sprinkle of jimmies.  These were in fact fish hovering over the virgin wreck.  Jim was amazed that any one could find a wreck scanning a depth recorder with no land bearings.  Bill explained that clammers and scallopers know the bottom of the ocean well spending 99 % of their time looking at the depth recorder searching for their harvest.  Jim gave the wreck it's first nick name the Ice Cream Cone.   This exciting wreck has led to the identification of a lost ship whose circumstance of sinking was previously unknown.  Read more of the fate of a lone surviving ex-crew member whose life was spared by the circumstance of war.  The dramatic story of how coincidence, luck and comradery led to the identification of this historic wreck will be related in a future story.    
You can read more about Atlantic Divers latest discovery in Gary Gentiles upcoming newsletter. "Freighter lost with out a trace identified"  
http://www.ggentile.com/  The name of the lost ship will be revealed in Gary's article.

I will address this headlining news release with a presentation this winter.
 
Join Atlantic Divers this season and discovery why Atlantic Divers is
"The Serious Wreck Divers' Choice." 
 
Good Wreck Diving!
Gene


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mebenson

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Sounds like a great year to come. May the Gods of Good Weather smile benevolently on us all.

Whittaker

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I can't wait to learn more about the "Freighter".  Always hard to identify a wreck when there are so many lobsters and scallops lying around, not to mention two huge basking sharks....

AtlanticDivers

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Dear Wrecksters,

If you join Gary Gentile's newsletter you can read about the latest shipwreck discoveries and wreck information.  Check out the story about researching the lost freighter torpedoed in WWII off Cape May.  The S.S. Miraflores was a United Fruit ship topedoed by the U-432 off New Jersey on February 19, 1942.  This exciting wreck will be on our 2008 schedule.  For more updates check back to our forum and look for our Wreck Expedition Schedule. 

http://www.ggentile.com

Good Wreck Diving!
Gene


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AtlanticDivers

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For those that don't get Gary Gentile's News Letter:

Gary Gentile Newsletter
Identification of an Unknown Freighter
2007 December
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This story goes back fifteen years. That is how long it took for the events that began in the summer of 1992 to run full circle.

To understand the generation of the story, we need to go back even farther: to 1986. That was when Homer Pratt, skipper of the Ursula, accidentally ran over a previously unknown wreck site southeast of Cape May, New Jersey. That autumn he took a group of divers to the wreck, in 160 feet of water. The divers were delighted to find the remains of an ancient screw steamer that was loaded with artifacts. They named the wreck Homer's Hot Spot in honor of the finder and the trove of artifacts that they recovered from the site.

Despite subsequent sporadic trips to the wreck, Homer's Hot Spot remained unidentified for the next six years. Then, on July 26, 1992, Mike Edge recovered the builder's plaque on which the name was stamped: Charles Morand. The Charles Morand sank after colliding with the schooner Zacheus Sherman. Full particulars of the discovery and loss are related in Shipwrecks of New Jersey: South.

As chance would have it, Gene Peterson had a charter scheduled on the Down Deep three days after Homer's Hot Spot was identified. I was signed up for the charter. When we arrived at the Cape May dock on the morning of July 29, we had no intention of going to the Charles Morand, because the location had not been disseminated. However, Bob Meimbresse, skipper of the Down Deep, informed us that he had obtained some wreck numbers from Jim Bowen, skipper of the lobster boat Wayward, and that the Charles Morand was among them. He asked us if we wanted to go there instead of to our intended destination.

It took only the blink of an eye for us to change our plans. Once on site, Gene and I went down first to set the hook. We then circumnavigated the wreck. Visibility was about thirty feet ambient, so we had a good look at the site. We exchanged shrugs when we returned to the anchor line. Although the depth was right, the wreck did not fit the description that we had been given of the Charles Morand. It was obvious to both of us that this wreck belonged to a much later era: no earlier than World War One, and possibly as late as World War Two.

We had discovered a previously undived shipwreck! Because we found no artifacts, I christened the site Bob's Cold Spot. As other divers started to visit the wreck, it collected a host of aliases: the Unknown Freighter, Dudley's Freighter, and the Ice Cream Cone.

Artifacts were recovered on subsequent trips, but none that helped to identify the wreck. And there matters remained for the next two years.

On July 4, 1994, I was diving with Tom Packer on Bob's Cold Spot when I spotted a dark shape some fifty feet off the port side of the wreck. I swam across the white sandy bottom to investigate. What I found was a disarticulated chunk of wreckage that was shrouded in fishing nets. Under the netting I saw several portholes and, after close examination, the helm and brass stand. I had discovered the wheelhouse wreckage!

I signaled frantically with my light. Tom saw the jabbing beam and raced across the open sand to my side. I showed him the helm stand and portholes. He was ecstatic.

Because the wreck was so far offshore, we had planned to make only one deep dive, then come inshore to dive on a shallow wreck which had been discovered only several weeks before. Eight minutes into the repetitive dive I found a brass stencil which I held up to the light, and read "S.S. CLEOPATRA." Positive identification!

I had written about the 1899 collision between the Cleopatra and the Crystal Wave in Shipwrecks of Delaware and Maryland. Neither wreck had been located at the time of publication, in 2002.

To return to Bob's Cold Spot, which we did the following day, I dived with John Moyer because Tom had to work. After hooking into the wreck, I led John to the wheelhouse wreckage. We did what we could to free the stand from the wreckage, and ran a guideline to the anchor line. Gene Peterson and Lynn DelCorio went down next, secured two 500-pound liftbags to the helm stand, and inflated them. The positive buoyancy broke the stand free from the surrounding debris, and raised it about ten feet off the bottom, but there it hung - held by the net. The addition of another liftbag did not break the stand free. They tied a sisal line to the stand, and reeled the line to the boat's anchor line. After decompressing, they brought the line to the boat so there was a direct line to the stand.

John and I had not planned to make a repetitive deep dive. But we certainly were not about to leave the stand where it was hanging. We followed the guideline to the bottom. I took photographs while John secured a safety line to the stand. John backed away. I circled the shroud of netting, cutting one strand at a time. When I cut the last strand that entangled the helm, the stand exploded toward the surface like a Titan missile launched from a nuclear submarine. It took all of us to haul the heavy stand onto the boat.

Gene expressed an interest in displaying the helm in his dive shop, Atlantic Divers. In fact, as if in prescience, he had mentioned that fact to me on the evening prior to the trip on which I found the stand, when I slept over at his house. I thought his shop was a prime location for public display. So he took the helm home, cleaned it, and stood it prominently in the shop for all his customers to see.

I entertained the hope that the cover of the stand had writing that would lead to the identification of the wreck, the way the helm stand that I recovered in 1973 from the Ioannis P. Goulandris had done. When Gene cleaned the stand, he did find lettering stamped on the cover: "John Hastie Co. Ltd, Patented Greenock," and a serial number: "2705".

Unfortunately, the stamping referred to no ships that were known to have been lost in the area. And that is where matters stood for thirteen more years.

In 2007, Gene decided to use the Internet to conduct research about the manufacturer of the helm stand. He quickly ascertained that the John Hastie Company was located in Scotland. From the Glasgow University Archives, he learned that the company furnished steering gear to local shipbuilders. As steering gear technology evolved, the company used the same serial number three times: once for screw gear, once for steam gear, and once for hydraulic gear.

The dates for the steam steering gear were too early for the wreck, while the dates for the hydraulic steering gear were too late. That left the steam steering gear, the item in question having been shipped to Swan Hunter & Wigham in 1920, where two sister ships were then under construction: the St. Mary and the Miraflores.

The St. Mary burned and sank in the Mississippi River in the 1950's, and was subsequently scrapped. The Miraflores disappeared without a trace after departing Haiti on February 14, 1942. She never reached her destination, which was New York City. The fate of her thirty-four hands was unknown; they were reported missing and presumed dead.


Gene learned that secondary German sources credited Kapitanleutnant Heinz-Otto Schultze with sinking the Miraflores on February 19, 1942, in a grid square that supposedly corresponded to the location of Bob's Cold Spot.

Hats off to Gene for a fine piece of research!

The U.S. Navy kept records of all vessels that were lost or attacked in what was known during the war as the Eastern Sea Frontier, an operational area that extended from Maine to northern Florida, and to a distance of one hundred miles from shore. The Miraflores did not appear in the war diary of the ESF.

After the war, the Allies established an Assessment Committee to comb German records for the purpose of establishing which U-boat sank which Allied vessel, and which Allied warships and aircraft should receive credit for sinking which U-boat. Again, there was no mention of the Miraflores.



This gave me pause to wonder what latter-day German researchers thought they knew that the Assessment Committee had missed. Since the National Archives has microfilms of U-boat deck logs, I decided to look at the log of the U-432 for the period in question. What I found added ambiguity to an already puzzling story.



According to the records, Schultze sank the Olinda off the Virginia Capes on the night of February 18, 1942. The name is actually typed in the log. Schultze knew for certain the name of the vessel because the skipper was taken aboard the U-boat for interrogation. Captain Benemond was then released. The USS Dallas rescued the entire crew after they spent an uncertain night at sea. The wreck of the Olinda has not been found.



Eight hours later, Schultze noted in his log an attack on a 4,000-ton merchant vessel. No name was given. It is this entry on which the credit for sinking the Miraflores is based. Yet somehow the Allied Assessors overlooked this entry. On the other hand, the Assessors credited Schultze with sinking the Norlavore six days later, when there is no log entry to corroborate it, simply because he was in the area in which the Assessors believed the Norlavore sank with all hands.

The speculation that is currently in vogue adds the Miraflores tonnage to Schultze's credit, but subtracts the Norlavore tonnage: 2,158 tons instead of 2,677 tons.


So who was right - the contemporary Assessors or recent German researchers? I dislike taking sides in a debate that is shrouded by so much opacity. But if I had to render an expert opinion, I would give Schultze credit for sinking the Miraflores, and take away credit for sinking the Norlavore.

No matter who is right or who is wrong, I don't think it mattered to the thirty-four men who died in the sinking of the Miraflores, or to the twenty-eight men who died in the sinking of the Norlavore. When all is said and done, human lives are more important than tonnage statistics. That is a cross that the Nazis refused to bear in their bid for world domination.



On a personal level, I wish that Gene had found this information a year ago, before I published The Fuhrer's U-boats in American Waters. Then I could have incorporated this previously unknown story in the text.



It only goes to show that shipwreck research is never-ending.

Gary Gentile

Now let me take a moment to introduce my latest book: The Advanced Wreck Diving Handbook. This companion volume to The Technical Diving Handbook precedes the latter book in terms of experience level. It is published in the same style and format: a coffee table size with a lay-flat binding. It covers such esoteric subjects as Deep Diving, Decompression Diving, Penetration Diving, Artifact Preservation, and so on. It is lavishly illustrated with more than 200 photographs.

Visit my website to read a detailed description of the book. Order your copy today.
http://www.ggentile.com

Note:
Also available at the shop.  More of this story will be updated as I continue to research and speak with the families of the Miraflores.
Atlantic Diver


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