Aside from having perhaps the coolest ship name in U.S. Navy history, the USS Cyclops continues to be one of the service’s greatest mysteries, having disappeared 100 years ago while steaming for Baltimore from the Caribbean.
A massive search effort ensued after it vanished in March 1918, but the 540-foot-long coal hauler ship, known as a collier, and its 309 crew members were presumed lost at sea, according to a recounting this week by the Baltimore Sun.
It would become known as the greatest non-combat loss of life in Navy history.
The Cyclops’ disappearance prompted conspiracy theories that included whisperings of giant sea beasts, German spies and Bermuda Triangle chicanery, the Sun reports.
Still, some hope that the ship can be found in the modern age of high-tech sea floor recoveries.
“In terms of loss of life and size of ship, it’s probably the last great mystery left unresolved,” James Delgado, a well-known explorer of the murky depths, told the Sun.
The Cyclops came online as the service’s largest, quickest fuel ship, able to haul 12,500 tons of coal at a time and sporting massive buckets that could lift two tons of coal in a single go, according to the Sun.
Refueling the fleet at that time was tough, treacherous work, and the coal in the cargo hold was always at risk of catching fire.
During World War I, the Cyclops was outfitted with 50-caliber guns and delivered medical staff and supplies to a French hospital.
“There has been no more baffling mystery in the annals of the Navy than the disappearance last March of the U.S.S. Cyclops,” then-Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels wrote after the disappearance, according to the Sun. “There has not been a trace of the vessel, and long-continued and vigilant search of the entire region proved utterly futile.”
Still, the Sun reports there may be hope that the lost Cyclops and its men will receive some recognition. Baltimore Republican Rep. Andy Harris is working to erect the first monument to the lost ship.
“As a Navy veteran, I feel I have a duty to honor the crew members of the USS Cyclops who never returned home to Baltimore, and the families they left behind,” he told The Sun.
The account of the Cyclops’ loss in Charm City’s paper of record is worth a read in its entirety. Check it out here.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.