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100 Years After It Sank, This Coast Guard Ship Will Remain in Its Watery Grave

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On June 13, 1917, a United States Coast Guard ship named the McCulloch sank off the coast of Southern California. Now, 100 years after the vessel met its end, the Associated Press reports that the military ship has been discovered at the bottom of the Pacific.

The USCGC McCulloch was part of the Asiatic Squadron, a group of U.S. Navy warships that fought in the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. At the time, it was the largest cutter ever built, and the first boat of its kind to sail through the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean [PDF].

The USCGC McCulloch sunk 100 years ago, on June 13, 1917.
Mare Island Museum

In April 1917, during World War I, the USCGC McCulloch was transferred to the Navy for duty. Two months later, while patrolling the foggy coastline, the boat collided with a steamship named the SS Governor. The USCGC McCulloch’s crew escaped, but the boat itself wasn't so lucky: In just 35 minutes, it sank to the ocean’s bottom. One crewman died; the rest were rescued.

The USCGC McCulloch sat undisturbed in its watery grave for nearly a century. But last fall, during a routine survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard located the wreck three miles off the coast of Point Conception, California. Officials announced the discovery on Tuesday, on the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking.

Wreckage of the USCGC McCulloch, which sunk 100 years ago on June 13, 1917.
NOAA/USCG/Video Ray

Wreckage of the USCGC McCulloch, which sunk 100 years ago on June 13, 1917.
NOAA/USCG/Video Ray

Wreckage of the USCGC McCulloch, which sunk 100 years ago on June 13, 1917.
NOAA/USCG/Video Ray

Wreckage of the USCGC McCulloch, which sunk 100 years ago on June 13, 1917.
NOAA/USCG/Video Ray

Officials said they don’t plan on moving the fragile boat, as the ocean's strong currents and thick clouds of sediment would make it difficult to do so without significantly damaging it. Instead, the USCGC McCulloch will sit on the sea floor for eternity as "a symbol of hard work and sacrifice of previous generations to serve and protect our nation,” Coast Guard commander Todd Sokalzuk reportedly said in his announcement.

[h/t Associated Press]

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Dave Einsel, Stringer, Getty Images
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
9.7-Million-Year-Old Teeth Discovered in Germany Have Scientists Puzzled
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Dave Einsel, Stringer, Getty Images

Scientists in Germany say they've found ape teeth that are surprisingly similar to the teeth of an early human relative dating to millions of years later. As the Independent reports, the team of experts unearthed a pair of 9.7-million-year-old fossilized teeth that, they say, have some of the same features as the teeth of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis.

Scientists from the Natural History Museum in Mainz found the fossils a year ago in nearby Eppelsheim but have waited until now to publish their findings—partly because they weren't sure what to make of the puzzling discovery. Of the two teeth, a canine and a molar, the canine tooth bears a striking resemble to that from "Lucy," one of the first known ancient human relatives to walk upright, who lived in Africa some 3.2 million years ago.

"They are clearly ape teeth," researcher Herbert Lutz told local media in a press conference. "Their characteristics resemble African finds that are four to five million years younger than the fossils excavated in Eppelsheim. This is a tremendous stroke of luck, but also a great mystery."

They dated the fossils using the remains of an extinct horse which was found buried in the same spot. In their paper, the scientists describe the canine’s similarities to other remains found in the lower half of the globe, but they still don't have answers to many of the questions the report raises. They plan to continue examining the teeth for clues. The public will also have a chance to see the teeth for themselves, first at a state exhibition this month, and then at Mainz's Natural History Museum.

[h/t Independent]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Divers in Michigan Discover 93-Year-Old Shipwreck at the Bottom of Lake Huron
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On the evening of September 21, 1924, the cargo steamship SS Clifton met its end in Lake Huron while carrying a 2200-ton load of crushed stone from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin to Detroit. The vessel was likely caused to sink by a gale, and the disaster resulted in the deaths of 25 crew members. Bits of wreckage were later found, but the freighter’s resting place ultimately remained a mystery. Now, more than 90 years later, the Associated Press reports that the SS Clifton’s location at the bottom of the Great Lake has been confirmed.

Scuba diver David Trotter—who’s reportedly located more than 90 Great Lakes shipwrecks—discovered the SS Clifton in September 2016, following a 30-year search. He waited to publicly share the news until his company, Undersea Research Associates, was able to investigate and document the steamship's remains last summer.

Trotter had spent decades searching for the SS Clifton, but finding it was ultimately a matter of serendipity, he says. In June 2016, Trotter and his team were surveying two wrecks—the schooners Venus and Minnedosa, which sank in 1887 and 1905, respectively—when they spotted yet another submerged ship. They logged its coordinates, but only managed to get a closer look several months later, in September 2016, during a quick dive trip.

GoPro footage confirmed that the ship in question was a whaleback steamer, a unique type of 19th century cargo steamship with low, rounded hulls, decks, and deckhouses, which were designed to cut down on water and wind resistance. “The Clifton was the only whaleback ship left in Lake Huron that hadn’t already been found,” Trotter said, according to WZZM-TV. “There was no question we had found the Clifton.”

The USS Clifton sits on its side, around 100 miles south of where some shipwreck hunters initially believed it had sunk. Its bow is shattered, likely from the collision with the lake’s bottom, while the stern, inside paneling, and architecture remain well-preserved. Divers also spotted an unopened suitcase, and signage inside the ship.

So far, there isn't any clear mechanical evidence as to why the USS Clifton sank, but Trotter's team did find “that the self-unloading mechanism was still in position,” he says. This was “an interesting discovery because we now realize that the unloading mechanism didn’t break free, causing the Clifton to have instability, resulting in her sinking.”

Trotter hopes to explore the USS Clifton’s engine room and cabins, and to bring the suitcase ashore to examine its contents. Until then, he can remain satisfied that he’s finally solved a mystery that had eluded him for much of his career.

[h/t Associated Press]

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