Always Another Shipwreck
by Ellsworth Boyd (View More)
It seems fitting that the 390-foot SS Proteus, which sank 20 miles off Ocracoke inlet, North Carolina, August 1918, was named after a god of the sea in Greek mythology. In the myth, Proteus could change appearances at will, something the exquisite luxury liner has experienced in its more than 100 years of entombment in the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Each year, when December 7 rolls around, George Carter of Chase, Maryland, reflects on what he and two of his buddies discovered in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii on July 25, 1992. That’s when Carter, Gary Larkins and Terry Kirby earned their own little niche in history.
Just as airline tragedies are at times blamed on pilot error, so are shipwrecks occasionally the captain’s fault. Such was the case of the side-wheel steamship General Slocum that caught fire on the East River in 1904. Its captain, William H. Van Schaick, had two choices of possibly saving his ship and its passengers. Unfortunately, he made the wrong decision, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths and the loss of his vessel.
The United State Coast Guard (USCG) has made many courageous rescues since its inception in 1915 and remains a stalwart military force. Although it doesn’t garner the attention or glamour heaped upon our Air Force, Navy or Marines, the USCG continues its “blue collar” workload with little fanfare.
When warships sink, it’s usually during a battle where they’re shelled, torpedoed, bombed or rammed and heroic deeds are recorded in history books. But not so heroic, and surely distressful for the captains, is when they have to scuttle their ships.
Hattie Wells image provided by SeaView Systems