U.S.S. Cyclops

Perhaps the disappearance of the USS Cyclops, a collier attached to the U.S. Navy during World War I, ranks as one of the best-known maritime mysteries in the history of American shipping. (Clark, the Cyclops investigator, unintentionally introduces an even greater mystery in his account of this incident: he has this ship disappear in April 1918, although he says it was not built until 1919 and “launched in May of the following year”; for the sake of some sort of credibility the Cyclops is now assumed to have been built in 1916, since it is clear from the rest of Clark’s account that the ship did go missing in 1918.) The Cyclops was a large vessel for its time, being some 20,000 tons deadweight and widely touted as unsinkable; but on her maiden voyage she was found to roll and pitch badly, a criticism also leveled at the Waratah by experienced seamen. Her captain was a German, Georg Wichmann, who— probably as a result of anti-German feeling then common—had changed his name to George Worley.

Clark tells that Worley’s indifferent ship handling often resulted in minor damage to the vessel and that he was less than inspiring in his navigation: the Cyclops was often seen approaching an intermediate port of call from the very direction of her ultimate destination. He was also apparently eccentric, often wandering around his ship clad only in his underwear and a bowler hat.

Clearly, these are not idiosyncrasies guaranteed to sink a ship, but when she did disappear, these aspects of his character, along with suspected design faults in the ship, possible inefficient loading, and bad weather, did not give George Worley a glowing posthumous reputation as a competent mariner. In January 1918 the Cyclops left Norfolk, Virginia, and steamed to Bahia (presumably to Salvador, in fact, at that time the port for the Brazilian state of Bahia) with coal for the USS Raleigh. At Rio she loaded manganese ore and then returned to Bahia, where she took on passengers and then left for Baltimore, Maryland, on February 21, with an unscheduled stop in Barbados.

The day after she left Barbados she was seen in midocean by the passenger liner Vestris, and that was the last contact the Cyclops and all aboard her had with the world. She had disappeared without a trace, with—as they say in these cases— all hands. Ten days after the due date for the ship to arrive at Norfolk, the U.S. Navy set a search in motion, but nothing remotely identifiable with this large ship was ever found. Because the Cyclops had disappeared in Caribbean waters, the Bermuda Triangle was enthusiastically invoked by those who saw an ineluctable connection between this incident and that area, not to mention the maritime periodical that opined that the Cyclops had been dragged to a watery grave by a giant squid. There were other theories, of course: Captain Worley sailed the Cyclops to Germany or the crew mutinied and seized the ship (at the time of this incident, some of them were in the ship’s brig for serious misdemeanors) and so on.

All of these “explanations” ignore the inescapable probability that somewhere at sometime at least one of the 304 people on board the “seized” vessel when she disappeared would have spoken up about desertion or mutiny. It is far more likely that the Cyclops, like many another ship in the history of seafaring, ran into bad weather, and through an unhappy combination of poor design, careless distribution of cargo, indifferent seamanship, and a murmuring and unhappy crew, broke up and sank immediately. That there was no trace of this catastrophe is, like the Mary Celeste incident.

(Source : Seafaring, Lore, and Legends by Peter D. Jeans)


Anonymous said...

This Vessel dissappear by UFO?..

Anonymous said...

Nobody knows what happen exactly. Some theories said it was dissapeared in Bermuda Triangle

Anonymous said...

maybe pirates took it over stole the tresure and sunk the ship

Graham Clayton said...

What was the reason for the unscheduled stop in Barbados? Could the freight loaded or unloaded during that stop have something to do with the disappearance of the ship?

Tripzibit said...

@Graham Clayton: Well, i don't know either

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