British divers have found a US shipwreck from WWI that has been missing since 1917.
A team of experienced warship divers were able to locate the missing vessel on August 11th, 40 miles off the coast of the Isles of Scilly where it was sent to patrol.
The USS Jacob Jones was one of six Tucker-class destroyers, designed by and built for the US Navy before the nation entered World War One. The Jacob Jones was the first modern warship ever sunk by the enemy—torpedoed off the Isles of Scilly in 1917 by a German submarine.
“This is such an exciting find,” said Dominic Robinson, one of the team’s divers. “The ship, lost for over 100 years, has been on a lot of people’s wish lists because of its historical weight.”
Dominic and his team at Dark Star diving have a long history of deep diving exploration, and have identified wrecks from all over the UK, including the HMS Jason in Scotland and HMS B1 Submarine.
Jacob Jones measured at 315 feet (96 meters) long and just over 30 feet (9.1 meters) wide, was armed with eight 21 inch torpedo tubes, and four four-inch guns. She was powered by a pair of steam turbines which were able to propel the vessel to a speed of up to 30 knots (34.5 miles per hour).
One of the most interesting things about this vessel was the remarkable stories that came with its sinking, both of heroism and honor.
“The destroyer’s commander ordered all life rafts and boats launched, but as the ship was sinking her armed depth charges began to explode—which is what killed most of the men who had been unable to escape the ship initially,” Robinson explains.
One of the officers, Stanton F. Kalk, spent his time swimming between the rafts in the freezing Atlantic water helping men into the life boats. He ended up dying of cold and exhaustion and was posthumously awarded the Navy’s Distinguished Service Medal for his heroic actions that day.
“The German submarine commander, Captain Hans Rose, actually saw all the U.S. sailors in the water and took two badly injured crewmen aboard his own submarine,” Robinson added. “He then radioed his enemies at the US base in Queenstown with their coordinates to come and rescue the survivors.”
40 miles off the coast, the ship proved difficult to find, and Dark Star spent weeks going to different GPS locations provided by the UK hydrographic office who have information on objects on the seabed, but don’t know which ones they are.
“We found the vessel on our second day of diving to other wrecks in the area, but there had been many hours of research before hand,” said Robinson. “It was very clear that it was Jacob Jones immediately—you can see its name written on parts of the shipwreck.”
“War ships look very different to cargo ships underwater,” he added. “We could actually see the guns, torpedo tubes and one of the prop shafts that was bent 390 degrees, which would have happened either when the vessel exploded or when it hit the sea bed.”
“But for me, the thing that brought it home was the bent prop shaft which shows the trauma the vessel must have been through when it was torpedoed. Absolutely incredible.”