(WASHINGTON) — Ninety-five years after the USS Conestoga disappeared on the way to Pearl Harbor, the boat’s wreckage has been found off the coast of California.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S Navy confirmed the find at a commemoration event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
“Conestoga’s disappearance is no longer a mystery,” the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation at NOAA, Manson Brown, announced. “We hope and pray this discovery brings the beloved families of Conestoga’s lost officers and crew some measure of closure.”
Fifty-six men died on-board the Navy tugboat, then part of the seagoing fleet. The ship was lost when it was on the way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in the spring of 1921. The exact cause of the wreck is still unknown.
Violet Plummer, a great niece of a commanding officer on board, told ABC News that the announcement fills a hole in a family narrative she’d been hearing her whole life.
“[Officer Harvey Reinbold’s] name was brought up many times in my childhood,” Plummer said. “He was never forgotten, but they never had the answer of where he actually was or what happened. I was always told he was about to retire and this would have been his last [deployment]. And, unfortunately, it was.”
Researchers credit a NOAA survey for initially spotting the shipwreck site in 2009. After years of investigation using technology like underwater autonomous underwater vehicles, researchers were able to link the USS Conestoga to the remains.
Some key clues included the matching of the ship’s remaining structure with initial blueprints, an uncovered steam engine, and a gun discovered among the wreckage – exactly like one photographed during the tugboat’s missions.
“This is a big discovery,” Matt Brookhart, an acting director at NOAA, told ABC News. “It’s been a very long process; almost a decade in the making. It takes a lot to make sure.”
The ship will remain in its current resting spot at the bottom of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary outside San Francisco’s Golden Gate.
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