The U.S.S. Cyclops – Explorations on Television

Published: 10 March 2024

By Marvin W. Barrash
Special to the Doughboy Foundation website


Photo taken during the production of Season One of the History Channel series The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters. (Left to Right) Marvin Barrash, Wayne Abbott, David O'Keefe. (Photo by Ona Hauert)

(Editor’s Note: See Marvin’s previous articles and video about the U.S.S. Cyclops and her crew here and here.)

I was about ten years of age when I was first made aware of my family’s connection with the saga of the U.S.S. Cyclops.  My father told me that his uncle, Lawrence Merkel, served on “the Collier Cyclops” that was lost at sea during World War One and that his name was “on the wall of the War Memorial” in Baltimore, Maryland.  That was many decades ago.

U.S.S. Cyclops in the Hudson River in 1911.

Since that time, I’ve extensively researched and wrote three books concerning the U.S.S. Cyclops.  From the beginning of my study of the ship one thing stood out as essential to learning the true cause of her loss and that of the three hundred nine aboard her in 1918.  The wreckage of the massive ship must be located and studied; not salvaged.

Since the publication of my books, I’ve been quite fortunate to have some opportunities to get that message out to those who may actually make that happen.  Through interviews on radio and television, interest in locating the wreckage site of the great ship has been revived.

Most recently, Lone Wolf Media literally has gone to great depths to seek the location where the U.S.S. Cyclops came to rest.  They produced a series for the History Channel, The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters, in which their experienced dive team explored the oceans deep, to learn the fate of the lost ship.  I participated in two episodes of the series, for the current and prior season, that focused on the search for the wreckage site of the U.S.S. Cyclops.

During the months that preceded the on-camera interviews, the producers of the series and I were in contact through email exchanges, telephone conversations and video conferences that centered on historical details concerning the ship’s loss.  Photographs and engineering drawings helped me to respond to questions regarding the machinery on board the Cyclops that made the coaling of other ships possible.  Some of these items would be seen in the completed episodes.

The only known picture of Lawrence Merkel, Marvin Barrash’s great uncle, who inspired the author’s interest in the USS Cyclops.

I explained the story of my family’s long-time desire to find the ship and bring the matter to rest.  The photograph of my great uncle that was shown in the programs was something that my great grandparents sought after for many years.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I began my research that his photo finally came to light.

Lieutenant Commander George W. Worley, the Cyclops’ only commanding officer, was the topic that brought out many questions from the production team.  Of particular interest was his leadership style and how that may have affected the operation of the ship.

The Cyclops’ final cruise was different from all her previous missions.  This was the first time that her tasking originated with the United States Shipping Board.  Her cargo was manganese, not coal or fuel oil.  The Cyclops’ last log book is with the ship.  For answers to questions concerning the final cruise, I relied on documentation from other ships that interacted with her in Brazilian waters and from other navy files.  U.S. Navy charts from that time aided in discussions concerning the route that may have been taken by Lt. Commander Worley.

During both episodes in which I appeared, I was interviewed by Wayne Abbott and David O’Keefe.  I should clarify this by explaining that these interviews were more like congenial conversations that good friends would engage in.  Through their questions, they revealed their great understanding and appreciation for the value of learning from history.  They knew quite well how to present the subject matter to the audience.  Much of the on-camera interviews centered around the final cruise of the ship.

The area of the Bermuda Triangle in the Atlantic Ocean.

Unlike conversations at home, interviews for television are subject to occasional stops and starts.  Sometimes a technical adjustment may be needed.  In other cases, a longer or shorter answer to a question may prompt a re-take.  Despite all of that, the time seemed pass all too fast.

As the final touches, in post-production, were applied to these episodes, questions of various sorts would prompt a call or email to me from a producer.  In some instances, the information was readily available.  For others, a few hours might be needed for me to provide a more detailed response.

Prior to viewing the episodes months later, I thought back to the interviews and wondered how I did and how the episode would turn out.  It wasn’t too long before I could view the programs and was glad to see how everything came together.

I hadn’t met the dive team that explored the wreck sites, but was shown some of their photography and was asked to comment as to whether the images were of the U.S.S. Cyclops.  As it turned out, the elusive Cyclops will remain in the shadows a bit longer.  Despite that, the dive team did an amazing series of explorations in the deep and located the remains of other important vessels.  I hope that this is only the beginning of the search for wreckage of the U.S.S. Cyclops.

I was very gratified that such a significant effort was made twice, by Lone Wolf Media and the History Channel, to try to pull away the shroud of mystery that surrounded the U.S.S. Cyclops for more than a century since her disappearance in 1918.  I’m very appreciative that I was given the chance to participate in the venture.

I have one disappointment: that my late father, the person who opened my eyes to the subject of the long-lost ship and his uncle who perished with her, could not see the results of what he inspired.

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