Founded by Dr. Clive Cussler, the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) is a non-profit, volunteer foundation dedicated to preserving our maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts.
In the late 1960s, when I met Okino Sasaki, better known as “Oakie,” he was bartending at the Jade East Restaurant in Towson, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. A small, quiet man, he was efficient behind the bar and always smiling, but he never said much. But on one winter evening, when business was slow, Oakie revealed some of the fascinating turn of events in his life.
He told me he had been confined to a prisoner of war camp from December, 1941, through the duration of WWII. When the war ended, he was released and signed aboard a tramp steamer as a steward’s helper. When the ship put in to Baltimore, he met and fell in love with an American-born Japanese girl who persuaded him to stay and work in her father’s restaurant. They were married, raised a fine family and Oakie became an American citizen. His account of the incredible chain of events that led to an escape from a suicidal mission, to his internment as a prisoner of war, attests to the adage: “Truth is stranger than fiction.” more »
While some divers consider the demise of the Bianca-C, an “unlucky break,” others call it just plain stupidity. At any rate, it has provided them with one of the best shipwreck dives in the Caribbean.
When the 600-foot-long cruise ship caught fire in October, 1961, while anchored in the harbor at St. Georges, Grenada, it appeared that standard procedures could douse it quickly. But that didn’t happen as the engine room blaze spread, a result of inadequate fire-fighting equipment. A boiler explosion was blamed for the fire which began upon the start-up of one of the diesel engines. Three of the ship’s crew died and eight others were injured during the explosion and fire. Seven hundred of the vessel’s passengers and crew were saved, many of them by local residents who launched an armada of anything and everything that floated. The rescue efforts took two hours, while explosions burst below decks and smoke poured from the hatches. more »
When my friends want to know if I have a favorite shipwreck, I feel like a father who has been asked which one of his children he loves the most! The Sapona, a massive freighter constructed from cement in order to save steel during World War I, is probably my favorite. Sunk off Bimini, in the Bahamas, the vessel ran aground in 1926 and still remains half below and half above the water.
Running a close second on my list is the Antilla, a 400-foot-long German freighter scuttled in shallow water off the Caribbean island of Aruba in 1940. The German captain docked his new ship, only a year old, at the neutral port of Aruba to take on fuel from the island’s oil refinery. But while it was there, Germany invaded Holland—leading to WW II. When the captain realized his ship would be seized, he sailed within 600 yards of Malmok Beach, opened the sea cocks, and sank it. The captain and crew rowed ashore and were taken prisoners, while the ship broke in two and settled on its port side in 20 to 60 feet of water. Now, all these years later, the 4,363-ton Hamburg American Line steamer is one of the best dives in the Caribbean. more »
In a recent newsletter published by the The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, retired U.S. Navy Captain Louis Cavaliere cites the organization’s “remarkable communication” through Web and Facebook pages. He says there’s renewed interest in the heroic story of the United States Army Transport (USAT) SS Dorchester and the sacrifice made for God and country by the four chaplains who were aboard during the tragic event. The sinking of the 5,649-ton troop carrier remains one of the most touching sagas of WW II.
The Dorchester, a converted coastal steamer, was sailing from Newfoundland to a U.S. base in Greenland, February 3, 1943. After a week at sea, she was 150 miles from her destination when the captain alerted the U.S. Coast guard convoy Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche of a sonar-detected German U-boat reported in the area earlier. Orders were sent down from the bridge for all passengers and crew to wear lifejackets until daybreak when there would be air cover from the base. Some of the soldiers who were bunking deep in the hold disregarded the order complaining of heat emanating from the vessel’s engines. more »
So many books have been written about the late Mel Fisher, readers have to wonder if there’s room in the bookcase for another one. Without doubt this one, “The Atocha Odyssey: The Life & Legacy of a Treasure Hunting Family,” is not just another story about treasure and author Pat Clyne is not just a former member of Fisher’s “Golden Crew.” He was a close friend of Fisher and remains even closer to his family today.
Thanks to Clyne, readers can view family photos never published, anecdotes never told and personal reflections revealed for the first time. Clyne sheds new light on the Senora de Atocha and the events leading up to Fisher’s 17-year search for the elusive Spanish galleon. It’s all here, told in an engaging writing style that starts with the renowned treasure salvor’s birth in Hobart, Indiana, 1922. more »