Carroll A. Deering

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Carroll A. Deering
Last known image of the Carroll A. Deering at sea, taken aboard the Cape Lookout lightship, January 29, 1921
Last known recording of the Carroll A. Deering at sea, taken from aboard the Cape Lookout - lightship , Jan. 29, 1921
Ship data
flag United StatesUnited States (national flag) United States
Ship type Five-masted gaff schooner
class Single ship
Callsign LQPD
home port Bath , Maine , United States
Shipping company Gardiner G. Deering Company , Bath, Maine
Shipyard Gardiner G. Deering Company, Bath, Maine
building-costs $ 270,000
Launch April 4, 1919
Commissioning 1919
Whereabouts stranded on January 31, 1921
Ship dimensions and crew
77.75 m ( Lüa )
width 13.49 m
Draft max. 7.69 m
measurement 2,114 GRT
1,878 NRT
crew 11 men
Rigging and rigging
Rigging Gaff saver
Number of masts 5
Sail area 5,020 m²
under sail
max. 16 kn (30 km / h)

The Carroll A. Deering was a cargo ship traveling American five-masted gaff schooner in Bath ( State of Maine resident) Reederei Gardiner G. Deering Company . The ship was launched on April 4, 1919 at the shipyard of the same name, which belongs to the shipping company , and was put into service in the same year. The construction costs amounted to about 270,000 US dollars , which corresponds to about 3.1 million US dollars based on today's value. The sailing ship was named after Carroll A. Deering, the son of the shipping company and shipyard owner Gardiner G. Deering . The Carroll A. Deering was lost as a result of stranding in 1921 , whereby the crew died under circumstances that have not yet been clarified for safety. Above all, the fact of the missing crew offered and still provides the basis for speculation to this day, which also earned the ship the reputation of a ghost ship .

Technical details

The Carroll A. Deering was a maximum of 77.75 m long and 13.49 m wide. The fully wooden gaff schooner had five masts, which were a maximum of 32.92 m high (above the upper deck). With a sail area of ​​5020 square meters , the Carroll A. Deering was able to reach a top speed of around 16  kn (almost 30 km / h). There was no auxiliary machine on board. The sailor, measured at 2114  GRT, was to be used as a coal transporter , with up to 3500 tons of coal being able to be carried in the holds. When fully loaded, the draft was 7.69 m. The crew normally consisted of eleven men.

The Carroll A. Deering was considered to be comparatively luxuriously equipped for a cargo ship that was supposed to transport bulk goods. Many of the interiors, including the captain's cabin , were clad in mahogany , cypress and ash wood. In addition, there were bathroom and toilet rooms on board, which were illuminated with electric light and which could be heated with steam by a specially built-in steam engine if necessary.

Service as a merchant ship

From the commissioning on, the Carroll A. Deering was under the command of Captain William M. Merritt. The first officer was his son, Sewall E. Merritt. In the summer of 1919, the schooner made its maiden voyage , which took it to Rio de Janeiro with around 3,500 tons of coal on board Newport News . Another voyage followed in February 1920, with Newport News transporting almost 3,300 tons of coal to the Spanish port of Huelva . Further trips took place until July 1920, including Guayanilla in Puerto Rico . In August 1920, the Carroll A. Deering, loaded with 3300 tons of coal, left for her last voyage. The destination was again Rio de Janeiro. Shortly after departure, however, Captain Merritt fell ill and had to go ashore in Lewes ( Delaware ), with his son accompanying him.

The shipping company now had to quickly find a new captain and a new first officer and within two days hired Captain Willis T. Wormell, an experienced and 66 year old sailing ship captain, as well as a certain Charles McLellan as first officer. The onward journey to Rio de Janeiro went without any problems. On the way back, however, the Carroll A. Deering called Bridgetown on Barbados to take over provisions and water. During the stay, McLellan got very drunk and was arrested by local authorities for rioting. Wormell released his first officer on bail . Apparently, the incident later led to a heated argument between the two, with McLellan alleged to have threatened Wormell. With this tense situation on board, the ship left Barbados on January 9, 1921 and set course for Newport News .

Last contacts with the ship and the crew

On January 29, 1921 at around 4:30 p.m., the Carroll A. Deering passed the lightship no. 80 near Cape Lookout , about 85 nautical miles south of Cape Hatteras , with a man on board the schooner informing the commander of the lightship, Captain Thomas Jacobson, with the help of a megaphone that the schooner had lost two of its anchors in the storm and that one did Shipping company should transmit. Jacobson later noted in the logbook that he was astonished that no officer and not even the captain had called him with the megaphone and that there must have been a certain lack of discipline on board the schooner, since crew members appeared to be randomly on the quarter deck although the stay there was normally reserved only for officers, cadets and the captain.

Since the radio system on board the lightship was out of order as a result of storm damage, the message could not be passed on immediately. This was probably the last contact with the Carroll A. Deering, even if the American cargo steamer Lake Elon (2,676 GRT), under the command of Captain Henry Johnson, about 25 nautical miles south of Cape Hatteras in bad weather in the evening hours of the same day sighted a five-master, which might be the Carroll A. Deering . Captain Johnson later noted in the log that he had noticed that the sailing ship was on a course that would bring it too close to the shallows off Cape Hatteras. If the sighted ship was the Carroll A. Deering , it remained unclear whether the crew was still on board at the time.

Finding the wreck

On the morning of January 31, 1921, around 6:30 a.m., a rescue worker from the Hatteras Inlet Sea Rescue Station discovered a sailing ship that had run aground on the sandbanks off Cape Hatteras , also known as Diamond Shoals , and informed the surrounding rescue centers. A short time later, rescue workers set out from the Cape Hatteras, Hatteras Inlet, Big Kinnakeet and Creeds Hill stations and attempted to get to the damaged vessel in two boats . Due to stormy weather and high seas , however, this did not succeed. In order not to endanger the rescue workers, who got within 500 m of the stranded ship, the attempts were finally stopped and the US Coast Guard notified. Sea rescue men could observe that the stranded ship had set the sails, which were inflated in the storm, and that apparently no one was on board, at least no one could be noticed on the upper deck.

The next day, February 1, 1921, the coast guard cutter USCGC Seminole , coming from Wilmington , arrived in front of the Diamond Shoals and tried several times to get to the damaged vessel. However, these attempts also failed because of the stormy weather. Nevertheless, it was found that there were no longer any lifeboats on board the sailing ship. On February 2, other rescue workers, including the coast guard cutter USCGC Manning and the mountain tug USS Rescue , joined the Seminole . As a result of the still stormy weather, however, it was not possible to climb over the damaged vessel on February 2, which could only be identified as Carroll A. Deering on that day . In the meantime the wreck had worked its way deeper into the sandbar and the waves washed over parts of the deck. On the morning of February 3, 1921, as a result of the constant impact of the waves, the first damage to the hull of the schooner occurred, which is why it was not translated on that day.

Investigation of the stranded ship

It was not until February 4, 1921, after the weather had calmed down somewhat overnight, that a dinghy from the cutter Manning was able to approach the Carroll A. Deering , and around 10:30 a.m. several men of the coast guard climbed on board the schooner. During the inspection of the wreck, it was found that the ship had been completely abandoned by its crew. Only one hungry cat (other sources speak of three cats) was found on board. Furthermore, all the lifeboats had disappeared, and Jacob's ladders were hanging down the sides of the ship (these were also used to board the coastguard men).

The chronometer , the logbook and all navigation instruments, including the sextant , and both main anchors were also missing . Two red lights were placed on top of each other on the main mast, which is considered to be a sign of the inability of a ship to maneuver. Scraps of paper were scattered in the washroom and three pairs of boots were found in the captain's cabin , none of which could later be assigned to the captain. There was also a meal that had been prepared in the galley , but it had obviously not been touched. Some sources claim that the food was freshly served or even warm. However, since the ship was stranded on site for several days, this is impossible. In the course of the investigation there were also numerous broken frames and considerable damage to the bow ; the wreck was already so deep in the sand that recovery seemed hardly possible. After about six hours, the coast guard men left the wreck again.

A trace of the eleven crew members and the lifeboats was never found, although the Coast Guard and the United States Navy carried out search operations until mid-March 1921.

Investigations into the incident

Shortly after the incident became known, various agencies including the Naval Office , the United States Department of State , the United States Shipping Board, and the Department of Commerce (headed by Herbert Hover , the wife of the missing Captain Wormell had been asked to advance the investigation personally), an investigation was initiated to investigate the incident. Although the investigation dragged on until mid-1922, it was not possible to finally find out what happened to the crew of the Carroll A. Deering . The only possible clue was initially a message in a bottle that had been found by a fisherman near Buxton ( North Carolina ) in April 1921 . The paper in the bottle said: “Deering captured by oil burning boat something like chaser. Taking off everything handcuffing crew, crew hiding all over ship no chance to make escape. Finder please notify headquarters Deering. "(Deering captured by an oil-powered ship similar to a submarine. Take everything with the crew in handcuffs, crew hides on the whole ship no chance of escape. Please notify the finder of the Deering shipping company.) One An investigation carried out later revealed that it could be the handwriting of Herbert R. Bates, a crew member of the Carroll A. Deering, but the finder of the message in a bottle admitted in an interrogation in August 1921 that he had forged the message himself have. Since this meant that the only possible indication of a presumed hijacking could no longer be considered reliable evidence, various theories were developed:

  • There was a mutiny against Captain Wormell on board the Carroll A. Deering . Among other things, this was suspected because of the strange boots in the captain's cabin. The observations of Captain Jacobson from lightship No. 80 , who noticed the absence of an officer during the megaphone contact on January 29, 1921 and the obvious lack of discipline on board. Captain Wormell's conflict with his first officer could also have played a role. Since the ship had lost its anchor in the storm and was also (presumably) unable to maneuver, as the two red lights on the mast showed, the mutineers could have left the ship before the inevitable run-up on the Diamond Shoals and later perished with their boats in the storm . However, there is no proof for this theory, at best there is possible evidence .
  • The strong storm, the strongest in this region for 22 years, forced the crew in a panic to leave the incapable of maneuvering ship shortly before it ran aground. So on the night of 27./28. January 1921 off Cape Lookout on board the lightship No. 80 wind speeds of up to 75  kn (almost 140 km / h) measured; this also caused damage to the lightship. Only on the following days did the wind speed decrease to about 45 kn (about 83 km / h), which still means storm strength or 9  Beaufort . However, since the transfer to the dinghies should have been relatively orderly and the chances of survival in a strong storm on the ship itself would have been considerably better than in a dinghy, this theory is considered relatively unlikely.
  • The ship had been captured by Bolshevik sympathizers in order to be brought to Soviet Russia . During a police search at the headquarters of the United Russian Workers' Party in New York , documents had actually been found that dealt with the hijacking of US ships and their hijacking to Soviet Russia. This theory was formulated against the background of the first period of red fear and must therefore be viewed critically. It has never been proven that such projects were ever attempted and even prepared in practice.
  • Because of prohibition , pirates or alcohol smugglers had captured the Carroll A. Deering and murdered the crew. What spoke against this theory, however, was that the ship was relatively unsuitable as a coal transporter and, as a comparatively large, easily identifiable sailor, as a smuggler's vehicle and, in addition, its cargo was not a prey for pirates. In addition, the ship should have been hijacked in the middle of a severe storm, which also seems unlikely. The pirate theory was also put forward against the background that in January and February 1921 alone several ships disappeared without a trace off the US east coast , including the British tanker Ottawa (2,742 GRT) and the Italian freighter Monte San Michele (6,547 GRT) as well as the sulfur transporter Hewitt (5,398 GRT) from Union Sulfur Company . Although no trace was found of these ships, it is very likely that they fell victim to the long and unusually strong storm period during this time.

None of the theories could be proven, so that the fate of the crew of the Carroll A. Deering has not been clarified to this day and a multitude of pseudoscientific interpretations arose around the incident - in some cases even the legend of the disappearance of ships in the Bermuda Triangle is used. Meanwhile, Captain Merritt, Captain Wormell's predecessor aboard the Carroll A. Deering , did not believe in a pirate attack; he suspected that the crew did not leave the schooner until it ran aground, then did not reach the bank in the storm and drowned. The coastal rescue workers also thought it was impossible to reach the shore by boat in this weather.

Whereabouts of the wreck

In the days and weeks that followed, parts of the ship's equipment were recovered and auctioned, including the ship's bell. After the Carroll A. Deering suffered severe damage in a new storm at the end of February 1921 and pieces of the bow had broken off, the order was issued to destroy the wreck with explosive charges, as it was viewed as a risk to shipping. The demolitions were carried out by the US Coast Guard in March 1921, but remains of the ship could still be seen on the Diamond Shoals until the end of the 1950s.


  • Ingrid Grenon: Lost Maine Coastal Schooners. From Glory Days to Ghost Ships. History Press, Charleston SC 2010, ISBN 978-1-59629-956-6 .
  • Kenneth R. Martin: Patriarch of Maine Shipbuilding. The Life and Ships of Gardiner G. Deering. Jackson A. Parker, Gardiner ME 2008, ISBN 978-0-88448-307-6 .
  • Ray McAllister: Hatteras Island. Keeper of the Outer Banks. John F. Blair Publishing, Winston-Salem NC 2009, ISBN 978-0-89587-364-4 .
  • Bland Simpson: Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals. The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill NC 2002, ISBN 0-8078-2749-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  2. a b McAllister: Hatteras Island. 2009, p. 34.
  3. Simpson: Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals. 2002, p. 62.
  4. a b McAllister: Hatteras Island. 2009, p. 35.
  5. ^ McAllister: Hatteras Island. 2009, p. 36.
  6. Grenon: Lost Maine Coastal Schooners. 2010, p. 67.
  7. a b McAllister: Hatteras Island. 2009, p. 38.
  8. ^ McAllister: Hatteras Island. 2009, p. 41.
  9. Grenon: Lost Maine Coastal Schooners. 2010, p. 77.
  10. ^ A b The Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks. 2015.
  11. ^ Bermuda-Triangle.Org: Carroll A. Deering ( Memento of June 14, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  12. Simpson: Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals. 2002, p. 61.
  13. a b Auke Visser's Esso UK tanker's site. Ottawa - (1900-1921).
  14. ^ McAllister: Hatteras Island. 2009, p. 42.