The SS Byron D. Benson is more than just another tanker sunk off North Carolina in the early stages of WW II. The 7,953-ton, 465-foot Tidewater Oil Company ship did her best to avoid sinking in Torpedo Junction where so many other American and Allied vessels were victimized by German U-boats.
Most people enjoy a banquet where they savor each delight from start to finish. For me, diving with the U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet Audio-Visual Command was an undersea smorgasbord that served the best courses from beginning to end.
Actually, we know what happened to the 356-foot-long, 2,500-ton Japanese submarine. It sank during a surprise attack by an Avenger bomber launched from the aircraft carrier USS Bogue, June 23, 1944. Faced with naval and air blockades that threatened to stifle Germany in WW II, Japan launched its secret C-3 type cargo submarine for transporting wartime raw materials to a naval base in Nazi occupied Lorient, France. Oh, and the gold? We’ll get to that in a moment.
How would you like to suit up on shore, walk out 20 feet on a marina dock, jump into 12 feet of water, and explore the remains of the Jefferson, a 20-gun brig built during the War of 1812? That’s what Kevin Crisman and Art Cohn did on three different occasions spanning six weeks of archaeological excavation.
In 1506, when Portugal navigator Tristan da Cunha discovered a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean, he gave his name to it and planned to return and go ashore at a later date. He kept a log where he recounted a desire to explore “his” isle and three others: Nightingale, Gough and Inaccessible (named for difficulty in going ashore) islands that later became Tristan Archipelago.
In 1506, a Portuguese navigator sailed his ship around a small island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The waters were rough and he couldn’t go ashore, so he did the next best thing. He named the island after himself. Today, Tristan da Cunha, a small dot on the map between Africa and South America, is recognized as the most remote, inhabited island in the world.
Trivia question: Which island, located in the South Atlantic Ocean, hasn’t had a case of cancer for more than 200 years? Is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most remote inhabited island in the world?” Has 288 residents? Is named after the Portuguese navigator who discovered it? Is rumored to have buried treasure and many shipwrecks?
Lake Champlain is the eighth largest naturally configured body of fresh water in the continental United States. Named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain, it stretches for 120 miles, bordering Vermont, New York and a snippet of Quebec, Canada. The lakes’s many ports of call, some going back to the Revolutionary War, cater to commercial transportation and recreational pursuits.
When the trawl net from the fishing boat “Mistake” struck something on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 1993, Capt. Jerry Murphy was fearful of damage to it. It was indeed ripped in several places when hauled up, but it didn’t matter when Murphy heard his first mate screaming, “Ballast stones and coins, lots of coins!”
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.