Forever Lost at Sea: Navy’s WWI Collier USS Cyclops

Published: 17 February 2023

via the SOFREP web site

USS Cyclops anchored

USS Cyclops anchored

Over a century later, the whereabouts of the collier USS Cyclops remains unknown and might never be known… forever lost at sea.

“Weather Fair, All Well.”

That was the last known message radioed by one of the biggest ships of the US Navy, the USS Cyclops (AC-4), amid the ongoing World War I.

USS Cyclops, the second of the four ships of her class built by William Cramps & Sons of Philadelphia, was launched on May 7, 1910, and was commissioned months later to serve as a coal transport to other active Navy ships in European waters, off the Atlantic seaboard, and in the Caribbean as a unit of the Naval Auxiliary Force. By the time America joined the chaos of WWI, the large steaming vessel was designated to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service to fuel British warships in the South Atlantic, as well as mobilize troops into the front.

Her Last Known Whereabouts

The nearly 550 feet long Proteus-class collier was on her final mission to transport 9,960 tons of coals from her home port in Norfolk, Virginia, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and returning with a new cargo: an 11,000-ton of manganese ore used for steelmaking, and was loaded to the brim.

After loading up the dense material—which took two weeks to complete—Cyclops left Brazil on February 15, with more than 300 souls on board, en route to an unplanned stop in Barbados to resupply before finally steaming home to Baltimore. The collier was expected to arrive in Maryland roughly four weeks later, but she never came.

Besides its last known message, the USS Cyclops just… vanished. Lost somewhere in the infamous Bermuda Triangle without a trace. Not even an SOS was neither heard nor sent to nearby ships. No debris or any signs of wreckage, nothing.

Speculations and Theories

Over a hundred years later, the Navy’s greatest noncombatant loss of life remains unsolved, with the fate of dozens of sailors and crew still unknown.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the ship and her crew spurred tons of speculations. Some wondered whether the collier had been targeted by the German U-boats, while others blamed it on a freak sea storm prevalent in the region where it was last spotted. On the other hand, some former passengers and crew of Cyclops pointed their fingers at Lieutenant George W. Worley, the problematic commanding officer of the ship. Worley was described as a drunk officer who was inept at steering a large vessel, let alone leading an entire demoralized crew. In fact, prior to the ship’s disappearance, there were reports regarding a minor uprising on board against the unruly captain that was immediately dispersed before it got out of hand.

Read the entire article on the SOFREP web site.

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