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.

Clive Cussler, Founder of NUMA

Key Largo Ghost Ship Lures Thousands

The Benwood, anchored off Rosario, Argentina in 1924

The Benwood, anchored off Rosario, Argentina in 1924

Most of the dive operators in the Upper Florida Keys might agree that the MV Benwood—a 360-foot freighter sunk during WWII—has attracted thousands of divers throughout the years. Where else can you find a colorful, coral encrusted wreck overrun with marine life in clear, shallow water?

The site is frequently used for checkout dives, while experienced divers keep returning to the popular Norwegian cargo ship site listed on NOAA Nautical Survey Charts. But years ago, the charts weren’t always accurate. They listed the wreck as the MV Brentwood thus leading researchers, including yours truly, down a dead-end. It wasn’t until I consulted the late Jean Haviland (See Numa.net, “The Wreck Lady: She Will Have Shipwrecks Wherever She Goes,” May 31, 2013) that I unearthed the mystery of what some divers call the “Ghost Ship.” more »

“Faithful” Coins Wash Ashore From Delaware Shipwreck

Terry Einig shows coins and bits of metal from the Faithful Steward.

Terry Einig shows coins and bits of metal from the Faithful Steward.

A penny for your thoughts! Perhaps a half-penny would be more like it if you’re searching Delaware shores for long lost coins from the Faithful Steward. Most of them are English half-pennies, a portion of the general cargo aboard an English merchantman that left Londonderry, Ireland, in 1875 bound for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The 270 passengers and crew had an uneventful 53-day voyage until they were caught in a storm that grounded the vessel at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. On captain’s orders, the crew cut down the mainmast and rigging, tossed it overboard and freed the 350-ton vessel. But while heading for deeper waters, it was driven inshore by gale winds and grounded on still another shoal nine miles south of Cape Henlopen, Delaware. It was only 200 to 300 yards from the beach, but there wasn’t a lifesaving service on that part of the coast at the time. more »

Shipwreck Has Tie-in With the “Real Rhett Butler”

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind

When biographer Darden Asbury Pyron wrote the life story about the renowned author of Gone With the Wind (Southern Daughter: The Life of Margaret Mitchell) he discovered close ties between real people and the characters in her 1936 epic. It’s believed that Mitchell’s characters were based on members and friends of her extended family and incidents in their lives, although she never admitted it for fear of being sued. One of her major characters—Capt. Rhett Butler—could have been George Alfred Trenholm, a handsome, rugged Charleston entrepreneur and backer of blockade runners.

Trenholm’s life is chronicled in Ethel Nepveux’s book, George Alfred Trenholm and the Company That Went to War, 1861-1865. Mrs. Nepveux, a Charleston historian and Trenholm’s great granddaughter says, “There were numerous resemblances between my great grandfather and Rhett Butler. I read and reread Gone With the Wind and Butler’s comments about blockade runners were exactly like those of George Alfred Trenholm. Mitchell must have researched my great grandfather’s career and used his background and personality to help shape Butler’s character.” more »

Shipwrecks of the Chesapeake

John Kellett & Jesse Levovics of Bladensburg, MD position the bow cannon of a replica of one of Barney's Barges. Barney sank his flotilla to avoid its capture.

John Kellett & Jesse Levovics of Bladensburg, MD position the bow cannon of a replica of one of Barney’s Barges. Barney sank his flotilla to avoid its capture.

An estimated 1,800 wrecked or abandoned ships, sailing during Colonial times to modern days, lie on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. From the Susquehanna River to Cape Charles, they foundered in storms, ran aground, blew up, were rammed, ice-crushed or scuttled. Schooners, sloops, steamers, ferries, frigates, freighters, barks, bugeyes and barges met their fates in murky waters that claimed passengers, crews and cargoes.

The Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet comprises one of the largest maritime graveyards in North America. Hardly a bay, it’s just a narrow gouge in the shore along the Potomac River, Charles County, Maryland, but shelters nearly 100 shipwrecks in its shallow, dark waters. Nicknamed the “Ghost Fleet,” this depository of wooden steamships was hastily built during World War I when President Woodrow Wilson ordered them to be constructed in a hurry to thwart marauding German submarines. Ninety were christened in one day in 1917, but ran into trouble when their coal-burning engines were rendered obsolete by diesel power. By the time the war ended in 1918, no one wanted the vessels which were salvaged for parts and then scuttled. Throughout the years they became shallow water derelicts with trees and bushes replacing rotted wooden decks. But recently, they acquired a new life. The Federal Government, recognizing the area’s historical and ecological significance, declared the area a National Marine Sanctuary. Now, visitors can explore the 14-square-miles of land and water, some of them opting to kayak or canoe past these hulks of another heyday.  more »

Sunken Sub Reveals Surprise

Navy Salvage Ship USS Current

Navy Salvage Ship USS Current

Last month, in a “Voice From the Bottom of the Sea,” Okino (Oakie) Sasaki, told his story of being aboard a Japanese two-man midget submarine during the December 7, 1941, attach on Pearl Harbor. When his vessel lost power and sank in the harbor, he escaped, swam ashore and remained a prisoner of war until 1945.

Author Ellsworth Boyd remembered reading about a midget sub being recovered from the harbor by U.S. Navy divers in 1960 and wondered if it might have been Oakie’s. This was a one in five chance since four others were lost in or near the harbor that day. more »

 

photo of Clive Cussler © Los Angeles Photographer Rob Greer