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″
Wreck of the Ethel C.
Wreck of the Merida.
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.