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

Rouse Simmons’ Christmas Trees Need No Water

Trees being loaded aboard ship. Painting by Charles Vickery.

Trees being loaded aboard ship. Painting by Charles Vickery.

During the holiday season, your spouse might utter these words: “Don’t forget to water the tree!” This annual mantra is enough to compel families to visit Home Depot where they could purchase an artificial Christmas tree. But for divers who are familiar with the wreck of Lake Michigan’s Rouse Simmons, watering the tree, better still “trees,” remains an anomaly. The cargo of 5,500 trees went down with the ship more than 100 years ago.

The ship and circumstances leading to its demise became one of the most intriguing yet sad tales of Great Lakes lore. Not just the story of another storm, it remains an epic tale of a holiday ritual that went awry when Capt. Herman Schuenemann took a chance in bad weather. He had sustained the journey from Manistique, Michigan, to Chicago many times. Although the weather wasn’t bad when he left port, it remained “stormy November” when anything could turn up.  He had two valid reasons for the trip. First he was in debt for over $1,000 as one of three owners of the vessel and second, he was welcomed at dockside in the lucrative Chicago market, where the average tree brought one dollar. He gave many away to the poor who named him Captain Santa. more »

Sunken Ship Found in Arctic Bombarded Fort McHenry

HMS Terror Bombards the Fort

HMS Terror

What would the odds be on a ship that bombarded Fort McHenry in 1814 being discovered during the September, 2014 Star-Spangled Spectacular anniversary of our national anthem? A million to one you say? Probably so, considering Canadian Park Service officials had almost given up the search after many years of frustrating attempts.

But during Baltimore, Maryland’s grand bicentennial celebration of our national anthem and the battle waged against the British at the fort during the War of 1812, something else spectacular occurred. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the discovery of the HMS Terror in the Arctic Ocean off Nunavut, 1,800 miles north of Toronto. The Terror and its sister ship, HSM Erebus, launched mortar shells against the fort in the Battle of Baltimore, September 13-14, 1814. Both vessels were lost in 1846 during Sir John Franklin’s expedition to map a northwest passage to Asia. more »

Peabody Essex Museum is Haven for Ships and Shipwrecks

Peabody Essex Main Entrance - Image Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

Peabody Essex Main Entrance – Image Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

Ghost stories, spooky mansions and witchcraft hysterics are just a few of the paranoid presentations of Haunted Happenings in Salem, Massachusetts, at Halloween. There are tales of ruthless pirates, ocean demons and the woman in black whose spirit haunts the town where her child was accidentally killed. Anyone who sees her face will die, so they say.

But not to worry. For shipwreck buffs, Salem isn’t entirely characterized by ghosts, gremlins and gore. It’s also the home of the Peabody Essex Museum, a venerable institution that most of the Halloween revelers eschew. For 200 years, Salem was one of the richest and most renowned seaports in North America. Its ships’ captains, who founded the East India Marine Society in 1799, sailed the world in search of international trade. In addition to tea, spices, silks, ivory and jade, ships’ masters returned with extraordinary works of art and culture from exotic locales. A society entry practice required every master to contribute a rare work of art to the growing numbers. Competition became fierce and by the 19th century the society had a priceless collection on its hands. more »

Kansas City Farm Yields 19th Century Steamboat

Arabia by Gary Lucy

Arabia by Gary Lucy

Strange shipwreck discoveries are not unusual, but few rival the puzzling paddlewheel steamboat that Bob Hawley uncovered in 1988. It’s commonplace for the remains of sunken paddle wheelers to be found along the banks of the Missouri River, victims of storms, fires and founderings during the 19th century’s western frontier movement. But this one was rare. more »

Historic Steamship Found in San Francisco Bay

The City of Chester

The City of Chester

An 1888 Gold Rush-era steamship was discovered recently by a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sonar survey team that was scouring the bottom of San Francisco Bay.

The City of Chester, sailing in a dense fog from San Francisco to British Columbia, was struck on its port side by another Bay area steamship that was twice its size. The bow of the Oceanic—transporting immigrants from Asia to California—sliced deeply into the 200-foot vessel, but the captain continued a forward thrust to plug the hole in an attempt to save the passengers and crew. Sixteen people aboard the City of Chester died in the disaster. The Oceanic sent out a double whistle signal, indicating the vessels should pass on the starboard side and the Chesterconfirmed it with the same double blast. But somehow the doomed ship’s captain either misunderstood the alerts or the tides drove him off course. Somehow his ship crossed the path of the Oceanic and that was the end of the maneuvering. The vessels were only half a mile apart when the captains realized their positions…leaving no time to abort the collision. more »


photo of Clive Cussler © Los Angeles Photographer Rob Greer