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Submarine wreck found off US coast

The wreck of a World War I-era US submarine that was sunk by the US Navy in the 1930s as part of an exercise has been found in US coastal waters. The wreck of the ship R-8 (S.S. 85) has been located in Atlantic waters, near the Delmarva Peninsula, on the east coast of the
Published: December 14, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:41
Submarine wreck found off US coast

The wreck of a World War I-era US submarine that was sunk by the US Navy in the 1930s as part of an exercise has been found in US coastal waters.

The wreck of the ship R-8 (S.S. 85) has been located in Atlantic waters, near the Delmarva Peninsula, on the east coast of the USA. According to available information, the found submarine, which dates back to World War I, is virtually intact and sits flush on its keel.

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historic photo of the R8 submarine
An archival photograph of the R8 cruiser photo U.S. Nava History And Heritage Command

Atlantic Wreck Salvage is behind the discovery of the exact location of the wreck. Conducting the search from aboard the vessel D/V Tenacious, they tracked it while scanning the bottom with side scan sonar. The group relied on historical records to determine the approximate location of the wreck.

Documentation of the R8 shipwreck
The wreck was identified from sonar scans and photographs of characteristic features

The team compared the collected data from the sonar scans with the R-8 images, and made a preliminary identification on this basis. No additional information, such as the depth or exact location of the wreck, has been made public at this time. This information will only be provided once the vessel has been examined and its identity confirmed.

In my opinion the sonar data leaves no doubt that the R-8 has been located. The submarine in the pictures has the correct length, width and height. The found vessel also has elements characteristic of R-class submarines – said Garry Kozak of GK Consulting, who, together with his team, analysed the acquired data

R-8 was one of 27 R-class submarines commissioned by the US Navy during World War I. Although she never took part in combat, she was active as a training unit during the 1920s. After being withdrawn from service, she took part in an experimental aerial bomb exercise that sank the unit in 1936.

The discovery of any new wreck is exciting. From the sonar images, the site will reveal a very well-preserved specimen of an R-class submarine. We look forward to further research and diving on the wreck in 2021,” said Captain Takakjian, who has already discovered more than seventy wrecks in his career

Construction of R-8 began in March 1918 at Fore River Shipbuilding in Quincy, Massachusetts, but the ship was not launched until April 1919 and commissioned in July. After the end of World War I she became part of the Pacific Fleet and participated in naval training off the coast of California and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1923, she sailed west to Pearl Harbor, where she participated in training and operations with other fleet units for the next eight years.

Sonar image of the wreck of the R8
A diving expedition to the wreck of the R8 ship is planned in 2021 for the final identification of the

In 1930, the Navy began phasing out units of this class, and R-8 became part of the inactive Philadelphia Reserve Fleet. The unit’s last mission was in August 1936, when she was used as a target in an aerial bombardment test that eventually landed her on the ocean floor.

The AWS team plans to dive on the wreck in 2021 to make an identification after visually examining the ship and definitively confirming that it is R-8. Previously, a group of researchers aboard the D/V Tenacious discovered the remains of U-550, the last U-Boat believed to have remained in North Atlantic waters, as well as numerous wrecks in waters off New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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