I thoroughly enjoyed my first attendance at the IMASS Shipwreck conference in Plymouth yesterday. This was the 40th anniversary of the event. All presentations were very interesting, but obviously some more than others.

Victor Vescovo
Richie Kohler

Opening was Victor Vescovo’s fascinating $50m talk of how he found the USS Johnston (DD-557) and USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) in the deep ocean trenches. To me it was very much like a documentary about scientific exploration; a captivating talk of the trials, tribulations and challenges of reaching the deepest parts of our oceans. In contrast I could relate more to Richie Kholer’s presentation of his dives into the engine and boiler rooms of the HMHS Britannic to ascertain the reason why she sank so quickly.

Dominic Robinson
Menson Bound

Of the six, the two most fascinating presentations have to be from Dominic Robinson of Darkstar who found the USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) as sunk by SM U-53 (the first US ship sunk by a German U-Boat in WWI) and Britsh marine archaeologist Mensun Bound who found Shackleton’s Endurance. Both were big news stories of 2022. I could relate to Dominic’s presentation more as he was a diver, though Mensun’s passion of exploration certainly came across in bundles of emotion.

The stern of the Endurance with the name and emblematic polestar
Photo Creative Commons. Credit Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust and National Geographic Caption - The stern of the Endurance with the name and emblematic polestar.

My takeaway was that no-matter your budget, all shipwreck divers, hunters and explorers have a story to tell. They are enthralled with the narrative and human element. Certainly for these presenters, the climax is finding the ship itself. However as Dominic’s recital of U-53’s surfacing in the USA and being welcomed by the Americans (the US was neutral at that time in WWI) while some of the submariners were buying newspapers for shipping/convoy dates that 53 would ultimately hunt and sink, it encapsulated the whole reason why we (well me for sure) scuba dive shipwrecks. From research into their demise, I find it’s as much the forgotten history and story that we can tell at a dinner party as the dive itself.

I’ll certainly attend next year and between now and then, focus on my own little objectives to dive the historic HMT Othello II and see if we can find the missing MV Hawarden Castle.