US Navy tug found off California 95 years after going missing

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Wreckage Of US Navy Tugboat Lost 95 Years Ago Found Off Coast Of California

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A U.S. Navy tug missing since 1921 has been discovered sunk off San Francisco, officials said on Wednesday, solving a nearly century-old maritime mystery.

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The wreck of the USS Conestoga was found near one of the Farallones Islands about 30 miles (50 km) west of San Francisco, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Navy said in a statement.

The ocean-going tug left San Francisco on March 25, 1921, bound for American Samoa via Hawaii with 56 officers and sailors aboard. It was never heard from again, and its disappearance triggered an air and sea search and gripped newspapers across the United States.

See more of the tugboat below:

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USS Conestoga found 95 years later
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US Navy tug found off California 95 years after going missing
In this image provided by the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, the USS Conestoga (AT-54) is seen in San Diego, Calif, circa early 1921. A Navy tugboat that sank nearly a century ago has been found by a team of government researchers off the San Francisco coast, officials announced Wednesday, March 23, 2016. The USS Conestoga departed San Francisco Bay for Pearl Harbor in March 1921. But the boat never made it to Hawaii, and her 56-man crew was declared lost. The boat was never found, despite a search that covered hundreds of thousands of square miles and was the biggest air and sea search of its time. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command via AP)
In this image provided by the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, Lt. Ernest L. Jones, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Conestoga (AT-54) stands alongside his ship, at San Diego, Calif, circa early 1921. He was among those lost when Conestoga disappeared after leaving San Diego in March 1921. A Navy tugboat that sank nearly a century ago has been found by a team of government researchers off the San Francisco coast, officials announced Wednesday, March 23, 2016. The USS Conestoga departed San Francisco Bay for Pearl Harbor in March 1921. But the boat never made it to Hawaii, and her 56-man crew was declared lost. The boat was never found, despite a search that covered hundreds of thousands of square miles and was the biggest air and sea search of its time. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command via AP)
In this image provided by the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, chief petty officers of the USS Conestoga (AT54) are seen in San Diego, Calif. A Navy tugboat that sank nearly a century ago has been found by a team of government researchers off the San Francisco coast, officials announced Wednesday, March 23, 2016. The USS Conestoga departed San Francisco Bay for Pearl Harbor in March 1921. But the boat never made it to Hawaii, and her 56-man crew was declared lost. The boat was never found, despite a search that covered hundreds of thousands of square miles and was the biggest air and sea search of its time. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command via AP)
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The Navy declared Conestoga and its crew lost in June 1921. It was the last Navy ship to be lost without a trace in peacetime, the statement said.

Unraveling the mystery began in 2009, when NOAA found an uncharted likely shipwreck in 189 feet (57.6 meters) of water about three miles (five km) off Southeast Farallon Island, in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

The agency began an investigation in September 2014 and the ship was identified in October 2015.

Weather logs show that around the time of Conestoga's departure, the wind in San Francisco's Golden Gate area rose to 40 miles per hour (64 km per hour) and the seas were rough with high waves, the statement said.

A garbled radio transmission from Conestoga relayed by a ship said the tug was "battling a storm and that the barge she was towing had been torn adrift by heavy seas."

Investigators believe that the Conestoga sank as it tried to reach a protected cove on Southeast Farallon Island.

Underwater videos show the wreck lying on the seabed and largely intact. The wood deck and other upper features have collapsed into the hull due to corrosion and age, the statement said.

Marine growth covers the exterior. No human remains have been found.

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