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

U-boat Loses in David Versus Goliath Battle

Joe Dorsey explores the sunken U-352 submarine off North Carolina

Joe Dorsey explores the sunken U-352 submarine off North Carolina. Photo by Ellsworth Boyd.

The demise of the German submarine U-352 on May 9, 1942, played out like a scene from Hollywood’s hilarious Keystone Kops with Kapitanleutnant Helmut Rathke playing the leading role. Thinking he had spotted a helpless enemy merchant vessel off the shores of North Carolina, the eager commander fired two torpedoes that missed their mark. His surprise attack was totally exposed when both of them exploded on the ocean floor. Thinking he had hit a merchant ship—one of many being sunk in “torpedo alley” at the time—Rathke was quite surprised when at periscope depth he spotted an armed U.S. Coast Guard cutter.

The German’s major faux pas was all that Lt. Maurice Jester, commander of the cutter Icarus, needed in order to thwart a second attempt. As the smaller vessel unfurled a medley of depth charges in a spread pattern, the commander of the sub tried to hide his vessel in the mud stirred up by the ill-spent torpedoes. He faced his second miscue when the depth charges shattered the gauges in the control room, knocked two electric motors off their mounts and ruptured one of the buoyancy tanks. There was no doubt…the sub had to surface. more »

Fallen ‘Star’ Had Galaxy of Troubles

Star of Scotland

Star of Scotland

The “Star” fell in Santa Monica Bay on January 23, 1942. Actually, she didn’t really fall…she sank, a victim of wear and tear on the high seas. Unfortunately, a seaman died when the 262-foot-long vessel rolled over in stormy waters that swept through the bay. The Star of Scotland was gone, but by no means forgotten.

How could anyone forget a ship that housed a gambling casino, promoted prostitution and was the scene of a notorious murder? Yet, these devious deeds were somewhat overshadowed by heroism in WWI when she sank a German submarine shortly after being commissioned into the British Royal Navy as the HMS Mistletoe. She was at that time one of a unique fleet of warships built in 1918 to counter-attack the onslaught of German U-boats. Known as Q-ships, which were secretly built in Queenstown, Ireland, the 1,250-ton innovations were warships converted and disguised as merchantmen. Guns, depth charges and other weapons were hidden behind fake bulwarks, deck houses and cargo containers. Skilled navy gun crews were disguised as grizzly seamen conducting ordinary merchant duties until it was time to jump into action. Like something out of a Clive and Dirk Cussler novel, a fighting Q-ship could quickly change its entire appearance with the aid of canvas, wood, paint and funnels, all set up under cover of darkness.
more »

Wrong Turn Sinks Gold Laden Paddle Wheeler

SS Pacific Ocean Liner 1851

SS Pacific Ocean Liner 1851

The lookout aboard the Orpheus barely saw the starboard lights on the PSS Pacific 300 yards ahead. He yelled to the helmsman to turn the clipper ship five degrees to port in order to avoid a collision. Meanwhile, aboard the Pacific, the lookout awoke from a nap and the helmsman was straining to see out of his dirty pilothouse window. Assuming he could reduce the stress on the hull if he side-swiped the other vessel, instead of striking it head-on, he turned his ship to starboard and sealed the fate of hundreds of passengers and crew. more »

Ringling Shipwreck Still an Unsolved Mystery

Ringling Yacht

Ringling Yacht credit Ringling Museum

“The Greatest Show on Earth” may no longer be the circus, but could be something connected to it during the Roaring Twenties. In 1922, people weren’t surprised when John Ringling of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus launched his lush $200,000 yacht, Zalophus, (Greek for Sea Lion). Known as the “Father of Modern Circuses,” he was not only raking in dough from performances by acrobats and clowns, he was making big bucks selling real estate off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

That’s where the 125-foot palatial yacht came in. Ringling used it to wine, dine and usher millionaire friends to Sarasota Bay’s barrier islands where he planned future development. The 125-foot pleasure craft had six spacious staterooms, five bathrooms with brass bathtubs and additional space for the attendant maids and valets. Ship historian David Weeks wrote, “The yacht’s furnishings and décor were lavish enough to satisfy Ringling and his wife’s taste for opulence and fine detail…so fine that some guests may have found it all to be a bit bizarre.” more »

Bonaire Windjammer is Ghostly Encounter

The Windjammer Mairi Bhan at Dockside

The Windjammer Mairi Bhan at Dockside

I don’t know who named the Mairi Bhan a “ghost ship.” Perhaps it was the local fishermen, but the moniker has stuck throughout the years. Divers refer to the 239-foot- square-rigged bark as the “Windjammer.” A deep encounter for experienced divers, the three-masted merchant vessel, victim of a storm in 1912, rests on her starboard side close to shore off the port city of Kralendijk, Bonaire, in the Lesser Antilles. A boat or shore dive, the wreck lies in 140 to 180 feet of water directly in front of the Bonaire Petroleum Corporation (BOPEK) fuel oil storage and transportation terminal. more »

 

photo of Clive Cussler © Los Angeles Photographer Rob Greer