Coast Guard and National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) officials announced Tuesday that they have positively identified the wreckage found off Point Conception, on the southern coast of California, as the remains of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) McCulloch, a ship that earned its fame during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
The ship famously drew the first enemy fire of the Spanish-American War and suffered the only American crewman casualty during the Battle of Manila Bay. The cutter carried out dozens of missions in years following the war, from Mexico to Oregon, and later became an integral part of the Bering Sea Patrol, used to enforce seal fur regulations around the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska.
The ship sunk 100 years ago on June 13, 1917, after it collided with a steamship carrying more than 400 passengers while attempting to navigate through a thick fog on the California coastline.
Although the ship sank quickly, the entire crew was rescued, with one sailor later dying of his injuries at a nearby hospital.
The ship was found and surveyed by a Coast Guard-NOAA team in October 2016, using the NOAA’s research vessel Shearwater.
It took more than seven dives and utilizing dozens of images captured by specialized underwater cameras for the crew of the Shearwater to confirm the wreck’s identity.
The McCulloch was the biggest vessel in the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, now the U.S. Coast Guard, when it was commissioned in 1897. Built a year earlier at the cost of nearly $200,000 by William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia the ship had a top cruising speed of 17 knots, or just about 19 miles per hour, and in addition to its quick steam capabilities, it was still rigged for sail, with three masts to be utilized for extended distances.
The future of the cutter is unclear, and it continues to rest on the sea floor for the time being.