Cyclops

An attempt to find the mystery ship, Cyclops, which vanished in 1918 along with over 300 naval crewmen. May 1983.

Much has been written about how the U.S. Navy coal collier, Cyclops, vanished without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle during a voyage from Bahia, Brazil, to Baltimore, Maryland, in February/March of 1918.

Vincent Gaddis and Charles Berlitz have made fortunes touting barrel loads of bull shit from their books on the mythical triangle while Larry Kusche, a library researcher at the Arizona State, wrote an admirable, in-depth work called “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery – Solved” and barely made beer money.

Kusche has soundly demonstrated that the Cyclops most likely went down between Cape Hatteras and Cape Charles under a heavy gale that struck the east coast on the 9th and 10th of March. During the raging winds and high seas, the ship’s cargo of 10,000 tons of manganese probably shifted and she rolled over and sank without warning or time to send an SOS.

The Cyclops and her three sister coal colliers all met untimely fates. They were the largest navy ships of their time. The Jupiter was converted into our navy’s first aircraft carrier and renamed the Langley. She was bombed under the sea by Japanese planes off Java in 1942. Incredibly, the other two sister ships, the Nereus and the Proteus, which were sold by the navy, both disappeared with all hands in the Atlantic during World War II and were presumed sunk by German U-boats.

The Cyclops still remains the largest navy ship ever lost without leaving the slightest clue to her fate.

Interesting when you think about it. The only difference between a great sea mystery and a perfectly explainable ship sinking is one survivor.

No clue turned up until 1968 when master navy diver, Dean Hawes, descended on a large hulk lying in 180 feet of water about 40 nautical miles northeast of Cape Charles. Hawes was stunned. He found himself standing on a vessel unlike any he’d ever seen. The bridge sat on steel stilts above the deck and huge arms stretched upward along the main deck into the liquid gloom.

Hawes finally surfaced with the intention of going down again with his dive team, but bad weather forced the navy salvage ship to abandon the wreck and sail back to Norfolk. The dive exercise was rumored to be a searching for the then missing nuclear submarine, Scorpion that was later found on the bottom west of the Azores, and the navy felt no need to spend unnecessary time investigating the wreck further.

Years later, Hawes happened to read an article on the mystery of the Cyclops. Included was a picture of the ship, exactly what Hawes had explored.

Hawes managed to convince the navy to return and check out the site again, but a different wreck was located and nothing resembling the Cyclops was found.

Dean was about to give up when NUMA and I entered the picture and offered to fund an attempt to relocate the vessel he’d discovered. I flew to Norfolk and stayed with Dean and his lovely wife. We went over the coordinates from the log book of Hawes’ former salvage ship, the Killiwake, and I thought it odd that the Cyclops had missed entering Chesapeake Bay and steamed past, sinking almost 40 miles to the northeast. (see Hawes’ coordinates on chart).

He and Kusche both thought that the ship, only operating on one engine and thrown about by the storm, was simply driven off course and missed the entrance to the bay.

Dean Hawes’ coordinates from the navy salvage ships in the area at the time he found the wreck are listed below.

Log book position of U.S.S. Killiwake, the ship Hawes dove From in 1968:

37 26′ 06″

74 42′ 07″

Log book position of U.S.S. Sunbird, nearby salvage ship on day of dive:

37 27′ 05″

74 41′ 08″

Wreck position Hawes dove during NUMA expedition of 1983.

37 27′ 04″

74 42′

Wreck of the Ethel C.

37 26′

74 41′

Wreck of the Merida.

37 02′

74 47′

Where is the Cyclops? As an article on the Hawes and the expedition suggests, it remains a sunken puzzle. Dean Hawes died a few weeks after the search and I have yet to make another attempt. Did Dean really step onto the deck of the Cyclops, or did he find the missing Nereus or Proteus instead.

Perhaps someday, when technology permits us to view the bottom of the sea with the same clarity that we can on land, the three ships will be discovered. Until then we can only wish.

51 Responses to Cyclops

  1. Derek S. Lee says:

    After nearly 3 decades of technology advances it my be time for another look. Sounds like an important discovery. Just curious did numa ever use scat hovercrafts?

  2. Of all the disaperances belamed on the Bermuda Triangle, it is nice to hear that someone is slowly solving those tales. There must be some family members who would like to find out that thier loved ones boat, plane or remains have been discouvered. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate there must be something new to help your next search. As for the Cyclops maybe it is time to have another look sometime very soon. Hopefully the Navy has updated its underwater maps and you have a little extra help for next time.

  3. Finding the Cyclops wreck would be like finding the wrecks of the four Japanese Carriers lost at Midway. It would mean an end to crazy speculation. The legends of the Captain strolling the bridge in his long underwear and wearing non regulation headgear. Other stories of possible espionage and Imperial German spies. There has to be near as many stories and ideas about her as the Titanic. Another true legand of the seas. Besides, her sister was converted to our first carrier. By all means she should be located and explored if possible.

  4. Ron Niday says:

    Interesting. I love reading about the adventures of finding wrecks you have written about. ( And the fictional exploits of Dirk, Juan, Kurt and Isaac) Thanks for your time and efforts.

  5. Stephen Russell says:

    Time to find Cyclops & mark with bouy & use Mini Subs for extensive diving.
    Bring up objects near hull.
    Awesome Find.

  6. Gary Norton says:

    I’ve heard an interesting theory that some wreckage lost in the Gulf Stream or other underwater currents may actually “drift” along the sea floor with time due to the strong current and it’s movement of the sandy bottom. Don’t know enough to know if this is even plausible, but it sounded interesting. Might account for changes in coordinates from one dive in the ’60s to wherever she’s eventually found.

  7. Jeanine Elizalde says:

    Fascinating article and story. I hope NUMA gets a chance again to search.

  8. Jason Clarke says:

    i was on holiday once a few years ago and i was reading a book that i think was from you but cant be sure that argentina had help from a foreign source against the uk and started a second faulklands war do you think this is hapening now

  9. Peter Jamieson says:

    Maybe in the not too distant future the defence dept. could employ the Sea-Based X-band (SBX) Radar system to track the sea bed in the particular co-ordinates where Hawes originally believed he may have located the Cyclops ??

  10. somebody should make more movies based on Mr. Cussler’s books–particularly cyclops, night probe, and vixon 03. A remake of raise the titanic would be cool too

  11. Paul Kalman says:

    I wonder who wrote this. A coal collier? Isn’t that a little redundant?

  12. Dave Smith says:

    I have read the book Bermuda Triangle – Solved and I believe the shifting of the cargo in a storm the most likely cause of her loss… or possibly a methane explosion from the depths that sunk her, either way I believe that one day she may well be found and if NUMA does not do it, someone else will ( possibly when coal is as valuable as pieces of 8 ;)).. and when it comes to mysteries, I would rather NUMA found Flight 19, thats the big one Bermuda Triangle fanatics like to use.

  13. eric says:

    What a great story. What it needs is and ending I hope NUMA will give it one in the near future and I agree that your stories need to put on film.

  14. silv says:

    Very interesting story and I concur. Your books need to be adapted to film. Each time I think of Inca Gold, I see it as a movie and then remember it was a book. Also loved Raise the Titanic.

  15. Daniel says:

    More than likely a hurricane could have moved silt and covered it over. Could a second ship sink in the spot of the first and settle on top? Is there a way to detect managanese? Anything is possible with time.

  16. Daniel says:

    Todd, Read IMDB and Wikipedia about the movie Sahara. I am guessing Clive does not wish to go through the heartbreak of a director butchering his stories again to make another movie. Seeing an ironclad in action was the only good thing about that movie. A weekly TV series with Sam and Remie would also be awesome . To bad Hollywood has no integrity. Look how many times Romeo and Juliet has been done to death. The Bard himself would cry over what happened to a “rewrite” of his stories.

  17. Bob Schiefer says:

    This info about the Cyclops is very interesting. And it is in America shore line.
    Could this also be a new story?
    I’ve been following NUMA for years, their history tells us the history from the past,
    Thank you Mr. Cussler….

    I enjoy your Books and share them with friends. They can’t believe that some one would do for history what NUMA does.

  18. Maureen Dickason says:

    The adventures of Dirk Pitt inspired me to become a scuba diver at the age of 50!
    I enjoy wreck diving and have Clive Cussler to thank for the excitement
    which adds so much to my life.

  19. robert bell says:

    having nearly all mr cussler’s book’s i agree that more of them should be made into movie’s but as close to the storyline as possble not a bit slapstick (like sahara).keep typing mr cussler.

  20. Brian Withers says:

    How many stories of sailors throughout history have we seen, that the last time loved ones were last seen leaving port? To me is unbelievable that the oceans are so vast that even to discover a wreck or a war sinking is amazing to say the least.

  21. Walter Eavey says:

    I also think were ready for another Clive Cussler movie. NUMA found a Civil war submarine, should be able to find the Cyclops.

  22. Tom says:

    I agree that NUMA should help finding her… but I also think it would be a fantastic opportunity for cooperation with the Discovery channel or National Geographic to join in for a spectacular documentary highlighting Clive’s and NUMA’s work.

  23. gerry says:

    Keep up the great adventure writing. Hopefuly NUMA is the one to settle the Cyclops mystery.

  24. Carl Walker says:

    Other than my family; two people have truly brought a lot of enjoyment to my life.
    They are Elvis and his music and Clive with his books and NUMA. AT 65 years old
    I’m hoping there’s still a chance the mysteries of the Cyclops and Flight 19 will be solved in my lifetime. I rather think Clive and NUMA are my best chance.
    Good Luck

  25. Jonathan Moor says:

    My late father, a former British merchant seaman, was fascinated by the unexplained loss of several ships in the early part of the twentieth century – the SS Waratah (between Durban and Capetown off the coast of South Africa in July 1909) and the loss of the USS Cyclops off the eastern coast of the United States in March or April 1918 were two of those with which he was most interested.

    A very great deal of rubbish has been written about the loss of the latter – from all accounts structurally unsound (either from building or as a result of slipshod maintenance) – and on her last voyage overloaded with a poorly secured cargo of manganese ore, commanded by a captain of alleged pro-German sympathies and decidedly eccentric in his behaviour.

    I find it somewhat surprising that a US Navy diver would claim that he had stood on the deck of the wreck of the USS Cyclops, if he had not done so, albeit I believe he did not recognise what he had allegedly come into contact with until someone showed him a photograph of the missing vessel. This, if true, I find rather odd. I would have thought that just as every British sailor has heard of HMS Victory, so anyone connected with the US Navy would have heard of the USS Cyclops – which, like her sister ships, was of enormous size and very distinctive in her appearance.

    It is also the case that many accounts of the loss of the USS Cyclops make mention of the fact of the dive made in 1969(?) in connection with the missing US submarine – USS Scorpion – but then fail to say that there was a subsequent dive (in 1983) to virtually the same co-ordinates which found no trace of the Cyclops.

    It is time for a further expedition to try and locate this missing vessel, if only to put to bed the nonsense of the Bermuda Triangle and the more fanciful explanations for her disappearance – little green men, mutiny, rogue waves and whirpools. The truth is, I suspect, far more prosaic; lost in a storm off what you term the Capes, the badly maintained ship breaking its back and sinking very quickly with the loss of all hands. That two of her sister ships were lost in similar circumstances (in the early part of the Second World War) again with there being no distress calls, no survivors, and no wreckage found, suggests that whatever ultimately befell these three vessels, it was the same kind of misfortune, and was something which happened very quickly indeed.

  26. I love your books. As I read them, I can visualize and feel the emotion of the scenes. My brother in-law, Bill Salter, gave me my first book by you and I’ve been hooked ever since. I not long ago finished reading “The Clyclops”. Wonderful, and as always packed full of action and mystery. When I go to the thrift stores, the first thing I check out is the book department to see if any of your books are there. Some times I get lucky. Any way, I just wanted to let you know that I am a big fan. Thank you for all the great reads.

  27. Tom says:

    One think I love about NUMA and Mr. Cussler is their willingness to call storytellers like Berlitz on the crap they’ve sold for years. This is especially true for the props they give to Mr. Kusche and the hard work he has done on the subject.

    One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Kusche:

    “If Berlitz were to report that a boat were red, the chance of it being some other colour is almost a certainty.”

    Sums it up nicely, IMO.

    Anyway, back to the Cyclops. Thanks to NUMA for a factual accounting of the Cyclops’ loss and the search for her wreck. I have no doubts that someday soon, someone will find the final resting place of the USS Cyclops. Part of me is surprised that it hasn’t happened yet.

    Now, as was brought up earlier, if someone would just find Flight 19….. (I know, I know, that’s the REAL trick….)

  28. Brian says:

    A long time ago I read the books by the various Triangle authors, and none of them mentioned the storm of early March, 1918. Would ruin a good ghost story, or so they must have thought!

    George Worley was the Cyclops’ commanding officer, and he was recorded several times as having “overshot” his port of call, meaning he’d have to turn right around and sail the extra dozen miles or so that he missed it by. The reported spot where Dawes said he stood on the wreck in 1968 fits Worley’s character, and I’m convinced the ship is there. What is needed is a calm summer week at sea on a boat with side-scan sonar; a sunken wreck with a bridge “on stilts” shouldn’t be too hard to find.

  29. Russell Brahm says:

    I believe it should be the salvage ship: USS Kittiwake not Killiwake.

  30. GPL IV says:

    It would be nince to have a section or update on the search for Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501. Of course, I would like the Cyclops mystery to be solved as well.

    As for movies, my son and I loved “Sahara”, though it wasn’t the book at all. Great cast! Perhaps the better solution is not to have any more books made into movies, yet have a new Dirk Pitt story / script written specifically to be a movie. No movie short of an epic trilogy could do justice to a full Cussler book!

    Best regards!

  31. George says:

    A young sailor from my hometown was lost on the U.S.S. Cyclops. I have often wondered how sad this must have left his family. Not knowing what happened to their loved one. I hope you find her soon.

  32. Anthony says:

    Everyone who has ever been in the U.S. Navy and trained underwater off the coast of Cuba has trained on the wreck of the Cyclops, it sits in restricted waters off the coast of Cuba, the deck has collapsed now over the years.

  33. Mark Richardson says:

    I find NUMA’s comments quite interesting, in the regard that in 1976 as a high school junior I wrote a term paper on the so-called Burmuda Triangle, and reached the same conclusions — i.e. that Mr. Berlitz was engaging in sensationalist journalism (at best), and that Mr. Kusche’s work was well researched and drew logical, supportable conclusions.
    One other thing that I recall about this topic is that while researching said paper, I compared the dates of loss (sometimes estimated by the original sources) against a perpetual calendar, and noted that significantly more than 1/7th of these dates occurred on a Friday, including a few on various Friday-the-13ths.
    This impressed my English teacher, but probably just represents a statistical anomoly, or what the Six Sigma types tend to call an “outlier”.

  34. Gene Bryant says:

    If anyone is going to find the Cyclops it going to be Clive Cussler and numa. He found the Hunley.

  35. Doug Smiley says:

    My paternal uncle, Louis Adolph Smiley, Electrician’s Mate 1st Class, was a passenger on the USS Cyclops when she vanished. Years later, in the 1960s, I served as Opticalman 2nd Class on the submarine tender USS Nereus (AS-17). This was a newer version of the old Nereus (and Proteus) that were sister ships of the Cyclops. Interesting, as is my father and another of his brothers remarking on how closely I resembled the young Louis as a child.

  36. Charles Tomaszewski says:

    I think everyone is looking in the wrong place for Flt. 19. I actually think that they may have crashed in the swamps around Georgia & Florida. As for the Cyclops, she will found. The Japanese carriers at Midway had massive internal explosions. In fact I read that the found a fragment of one. I think it’s exciting that NUMA is active in this area-

  37. Natasha says:

    I have just come across a special on TV about the disappearance of the USS Cyclops in the Burmuda Triangle. I’m very interested to see if there have been any developments or updates in this great mystery.

  38. John Abatie says:

    As a child I was fascinated by the Triangle, Project Bluebook, and the like. My father was a Pearl Harbor survivor and vet of all the battles acriss the Pacific, so the Cyclops always piqued my interest, and when I discovered Mr Cusslers story, it was fantastic. Hopefully she will be found, and for NUMA to do it would be great… Thank you Clive for all your terrific stories and characters, theyve held my imagination for decades, and inspire me to hopefully soon learn to dive at 42…!!!

  39. Bob says:

    I’m interested in Anthony’s comment that the location of the wreck is well known and used by the US navy for practice. Were you a navy diver Anthony and did you dive the Cyclops?

  40. Bob says:

    Anthony, are you a navy diver and did you dive this wreck?

  41. Michael Stephen LeCompte says:

    I am a family historian for my family beginning my research back in the mid 80’s. One of the major areas of my research was on my paternal Grandmother Alice May Lowman. Over the years of research I finally tracked down most of her life and members of her family including one of her brothers, my Grand Uncle (people refer to such people as Great Uncles but in actuality the term Great only applies to the 3rd generation as in Great Grand Parents) “Dewey Nicholas Lowman” the 4th child of 6 (my Grandmother being the 6th) of Nicholas Lowman born 2 Sep 1898 in Arbutus, Baltimore, Maryland and died 14 Jun 1918 on board the U.S.S. Cyclops which was lost at sea. To me that was in itself an interesting bit of family history that for years I did not pursue as many a ship was lost at sea during WWI but earlier this year I decided to at least put a picture on my ancestry site of the ship and after I Googled it that is when I discovered the truth to about the ship and it’s history. WOW is not a descriptive enough phase. My Grand Uncle Dewey is a part of that history and yes his name is both on the wall and in the ship manifest. I would have dearly loved to have talked to him about his experiences on board that ship and any encounters he had with the Captain. I would truly love for the ship to be found, for closure if for nothing else.

  42. Pete Lewis says:

    I read online just very recently that the USS Cyclops was discovered off the coast of North Carolina near Cape Lookout. I was born and raised in that same area and have never heard about it in any of the papers in any local gossip. It was said the dive crew that found the ship were keeping the where abouts specicifics secret. But, still would be amazing to find out more on this possible discovery or even where the ships actual location is. Hopefully it is discovered someday.

  43. John Dollen says:

    Would you email me a picture of Dewey Lowman? My American Legion Post 109 is named after him, but I can find a picture anywhere.

  44. Michael says:

    I watched for some reply to Bob’s inquiries to this “Anthony” who posted on May 2, 2013: “Everyone who has ever been in the U.S. Navy and trained underwater off the coast of Cuba has trained on the wreck of the Cyclops, it sits in restricted waters off the coast of Cuba, the deck has collapsed now over the years.” I found the claim rather hard to swallow — did HE actually train there, or did he just hear Navy “scuttlebutt”? And how did he (or his source) know the wreck was the USS Cyclops, and not some other ship? I’m assuming any training done in “restricted waters off the coast of Cuba” would mean Guantanamo Bay. Those waters have been heavily transited for centuries, so I’m betting alot of ships have gone done in that area. But without further clarification from Anthony, I think it’s safe to say his story is bunk. He either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is a “seminar poster” just stirring up controversy. If his claim really is true, then it’s got to be the best-kept secret in the United States Navy!

  45. P B says:

    I saw it floating while on bridge watch going thru the B T. OR a vessel which was alto like it. YES I SAID FLOATING….. I never reported it because it was to crazy to see a ship floating rite down the side of our USCG 378 Foot ship.

  46. Mark says:

    I have to agree with Michael’s post that this ‘Anthony’ is on a wind up.

    I have done a lot of research on this ship as I am writing a book of which this vessel is included as one of the features. The information I have gathered has allowed me to propose a new completely theory as to what might have happened to her and roughly where she might be but I want to be absolutely certain of my facts before I make any definitive statements. (I am 90% confident in what I currently think though)

    I have contacted the US Navy at Guantanamo Bay some time ago and they say they do not know where she sunk and I have no reason to disbelieve them. This area is a plausible place where she might have down but ‘Anthony’ claims the navy know the ship is there so why would they want to keep it secret? Also if it is so secret why is ‘Anthony’ posting her location on the internet? Surely IF he had dived on the Cyclops AND it was secret he would be in big trouble with the navy for doing this?

    I think the navy would love to know where she is and hopefully she will be found within the next year or two.

  47. Rick Collins says:

    I am trying to find family Members of Bonnie T. Summers and Louis A. Smiley. I am the post historian for The Smiley~Summers American Legion Post 267 , Marshall TX. Doug Smiley if you see this please contact us. We would like to learn all you have to share.

  48. Jodeci/joe says:

    Is their still a chance of it still floating

  49. joe says:

    dont u think its timefor another look

  50. Mike Sanchez says:

    I just found this fascinating thread and believe the location might have been figured out in a book I have been reading ‘Strange Things Happen at Sea’ by MC Hopkins. I downloaded it from the Amazon store as I have always been interested in sea mysteries and have not been able to put it down.

    He appears to have done a lot of research on this ship (and many others) and has plausible and sensible explanations of how Dean Hawes found the wreck but the navy found a different one.

    Well worth a look.

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