A lost US ship, USS Conestoga, Lost en-route Pearl Harbour 95 years ago has recently been found off the coast of California. The USS Conestoga embarked on its last journey on Good Friday 1921 under seemingly unfavorable weather conditions. There were 56 sailors onboard Conestoga which was bound for Pearl Harbour from Mare Island Navy Yard California.
The ship was first launched 17 years prior and had since worked extensively and was widely used for Pennsylvania railroads; hauling barges and transporting other equipment. Over the years the ship’s crew hardened and honed their skills on the water, earning their ship much deserved title of the ‘wet boat’ for being easy on water.
The weather at the day of Conestoga’s doomed departure was particularly rough, but trusting in the skill of the ship’s veteran skipper the crew decided to go ahead with the journey. When the ship crossed the famous point Bonita at 4 p.m. on Good Friday 1921, a San Francisco light ship recorded the heavy gale force winds. The USS Conestaga left San Francisco harbor, never to be seen again.
Now nearly a century later the news of the lost ship came from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOAA announced that the Conestaga’s wreck had been discovered near Farallon Island off the coast of California. The agency made the announcement in an official memorial ceremony hosted by US Navy, attended by families and relatives of the lost crewmen of USS Conestoga.
Speaking on the occasion Diane Gollnitz, 73 who is the grand-daughter of the boat’s Skipper, Lt. Ernest Larkin Jones, expressed gratitude and relief on the discovery. She added that the whole experience was utterly overwhelming for the family, especially for her grandchildren who were present at the ceremony. Ms. Gollnitz said that now they can connect the 95-year-old events that shook their family with a sense of relief and peace.
The potential wreck site of Conestoga has been under observation for a few years now; first, a sonar inspection took place in 2009 followed by a detailed robotic examination in 2014 and 2015. James P. Delgado, who is the director o of maritime heritage for National Marine Sanctuaries, explained that the whole project took a wrong turn when US Navy assessment took the work 2,000 miles away from the actual shipwreck due to a technical glitch. This wasted a considerable amount of research time and energy, however, the actual wreck was discovered in October last year and families were consequently informed of the findings.
The initial search and rescue operation started off on the bad footing when US Navy launched an extensive 11-day search mission with 60 ships and dozens of planes. However the wide range of the search – 3,000 square miles – was focused on Hawaii, where Navy thought Conestoga have been sighted before it disappeared. The search yielded no success since the ship had in fact gone down almost half an ocean away.