SHIP NOTES: (Sources: Jordan, Gentile)
(previous names: Buenaventrua [1940],
Lake Flattery [1923])
Type: Cargo Freighter
Built: 1919 by McDougall-Duluth Shipbuilding Co., Duluth, Minnesota Owner: Panama Railroad Steamship Line
Home Port: New York, NY
Size (ft.): 261-0 x 43-9 x 24-4 Tonnage: 2,609 tons
Propulsion: Single screw oil-fired steam engine/
speed 9.5 knts
Date Sunk: 3/11/42 Cause: Torpedoed by U-158
Location Cape Lookout, NC GPS: N34° 36.414'/W76° 18.846'

SHIP HISTORY: (Sources: Gentile, Hickam, Moore, Stick)
The Caribsea was sailing alone en route from Santiago, Cuba to Norfolk, VA. with a cargo of manganese. At 0200 EWT, she was struck by two torpedoes on the starboard side. The first hit the #2 hold and the second hit amidships. The ship sunk in less than 3 minutes. The crew was unable to launch of the ship's lifeboats and jumped overboard. Only 7 of the 28 member crew managed to cling to wreckage and survive the 10 hours in the water before they were picked up by the freighter SS Norlindo. It is reportd that the U-158 circled the survivors during the night, shining a light in their direction before finally submerging. They were taken towards Cape Henry, VA before being transferred to a Coast Guard boat. Two months later, the Norlindo was sunk near the Dry Tortugas by the U-507.

Caribsea, from the collection of Mike McKay

One of the Caribsea crew who died was a resident of Ocracoke Island on the North Carolina Outer Banks named Jim Baum Gaskill. He was the engineer. A local story has it on the day after the sinking, his father, Bill Gaskill was cleaning up the debris from a strong gale that has passed through that night. He was inspecting his dock and shoreline when he noticed a large plank bumping up against his dock. Mr. Gaskill tried several times to push the plank away, but each time it returned to the dock, as if tied by a unseen string. Using a boat hook, Mr. Gaskill finally pulled the plank completely onto the dock. When he turned it over, he was greeted by large gold-gilt letters spelling the ship's name "Caribsea". He knew then his son was dead. The official word would arrive that evening.
Another version of the story has it that the glass case that enclosed Gaskill's engineer's license came ashore near Ocracoke Village a few days after the sinking. It is also reported that the special cross behind the altar of the Ocracoke Methodist Church is made of the Caribsea nameplate that drifted through Ocracoke Inlet and was found on the sound shore, opposite Gaskill's birthplace.

An old diving buddy of mine, James Pickard of Durham, NC, recovered the builder's plaque of the Caribsea, with it's original name, Lake Flattery. It is on display at the Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City.

SS Caribsea (11)
Diving Depths: 70-90 ft.
Current: None to slight
Visibility: Highly variable and susceptible to ocean swells; generally in the range of 10 to 40 feet
Summer Temperature: mid to high 70s with thermocline
Points of Interest: Two boilers, engine, port and starboard bow anchors, rudder, intact bow section
Fish/Animal Life: Large groups of spadefish, baitfish, amberjacks; frequented by stingray and cobia, spanish mackeral in the summer and generally numerous sandtiger sharks.
Description: Because it is relatively small and the wreckage is contiguous from bow-to-stern, the Caribsea is an easy wreck to navigate on-- even in the worst visibility! The boilers, engine and bow are the highest and most notable sites on the wreck. This wreck is one of the best for marine life. It is often covered up with bait which attracts sharks, amberjacks and other large predators. Visit the bow while you still can, because it won't remain standing for long. The beams supporting the upper deck have given way and the deck, with its heavy anchor windlass, has been dropping and twisting to star board ever since 1993. The storms of late 1994 caused more significant damage. The upper decking is now almost completely gone. The windlass has twisted and dropped even further and has dragged the port anchor on to what used to be the upper deck. Much of the fish concentration and feeding dynamics occur above the high point of the bow. Just hanging above the bow for the entire dive can prove entertaining as your are engulfed in schools of bait, groups of sandtigers sharks and marrauding bands of amberjacks. In the fall, the viz can often be reduced to less than one foot by the dense schools of bait.
Update 2006: The Caribsea is getting more and more fragile — particularly in the bow section. The weight of the windlass has collapsed the decks and all the surface metal is thin and rotten. The two anchors, once sitting proudly in the hawse pipes are now gone. The starbard anchor has fallen to the sand and the port anchor has been covered in the collapsing debris. Even the anchor windlass has started to collapse. The engine and boilers remain as solid as ever and fish life still abounds, with groups of sentinel sandtigers sharks sitting above the bow and stern.
The bow of the Caribsea circa 1993 — much has now collapsed
The bow of the Caribsea circa 2006 — falling fast
Wreckage on starboard side near stern
Rudder sticking out of the sand at stern
Photo composite of the engine and boilers
DIiver above the engine and two boilers
Bollard on the bow - circa 1994
Bow anchor windlass
Starboard bow anchor
Small windlass on starboard side off bow
Port side anchor on bow
Propeller shaft at stern
Sandtigers often frequent this wreck
Baitfish swirl along the edge of the bow remains

Unless specifically noted, all photos, text and content Copyright © Paul M. Hudy

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