Daily Event for December 31, 2009

Dec. 31, 1942 the old cargo ship Maiden Creek sank in the North Atlantic fifty or so miles south of Montauk, New York. The ship was a Hog Islander built in 1919 and was en route from Botwood, Newfoundland to New York when she ran into a violent storm. The sea battered the ship until it's cargo of ore shifted causing a bad list, it was bad enough to cause the captain, G. R. Cook, to order the ship abandoned. The sinking ship and the rough seas made getting off extremely difficult, sadly two of the crew perished just trying, but two boats were launched. Just getting into the lifeboats was no guarantee of survival, in fact one of the boats with eighteen men was never found.

The other boat with thirty-one men was sighted on Jan. 3 by Lt. Norman E. Purdy, USAAF while on an anti-submarine patrol. Purdy signaled back to his base and the Army sent out another aircraft, the navy sent a Catalina PBY piloted by Lt. Commander Delos C. Wait, USN in the hope he could set down and rescue the survivors. On arriving Wait realized that landing was impossible, even if the PBY survived the landing the sea would destroy his aircraft. He must have felt helpless, being able to see these poor men and not being able to help, they must have been equally distraught, looking at possible rescue knowing the plane could not land. Wait did the next best thing, he flew low over the lifeboat while his crew dropped bundles of food, clothes, water, blankets and other survival gear. He also stayed in the area until he saw all the material was recovered by the men in the lifeboat.

The Army found them, the Navy tried to rescue them, but the Coast Guard arranged their pick up. Lt. Edwin B. Ing, USCG, was also trying to help, he scouted the area and found a freighter fifteen miles from the lifeboat, flying low, a signal lamp was used to notify the ship of the drama that was playing out just miles away. The ship made her best speed to the scene and finally pulled the men out of the sea to safety. All thirty-one survived thanks to the combined efforts of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.
© 2009 Michael W. Pocock
Sidescan sonar image of the wreck of SS Maiden Creek.
(Courtesy of Ben Roberts)
© Ben Roberts all rights reserved
Sidescan sonar image of the wreck of SS Maiden Creek.
(Courtesy of Ben Roberts)
© Ben Roberts all rights reserved
Sidescan sonar image of the wreck of SS Maiden Creek.
(Courtesy of Ben Roberts)
© Ben Roberts all rights reserved

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
SS Maiden Creek
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Ackerlind, Edward J.
Engine Cadet
Alexander, Harry
Fireman / Watertender
Carriere, Warren B.
Deck Cadet
Crawford, Thomas
Able Seaman
Degennaro, Louis
Fireman / Watertender
Ellse, Theodore W.
Johnson, Fred
1st Engineer
Keane, Edward W.
MacKesy, Anthony
Mclain, Grady C.
2nd Engineer
Murray, Thomas F.
Pas, Herman
Perez, Marcelino
Petitti, Charles T.
Able Seaman
Ray, Norman A.
2nd Mate
Smith, Montgomery
3rd Engineer
Squires, Joseph
Able Seaman
Wagner, Harold B.
Seaman 1st Class (USNR)
Armed Guard
Waters, Raymond
Whitney, Harold E.
Deck Engineer

May 19, 2021
On Monday an associate of mine helped locate a US merchant marine freighter that sunk during World War II, the Maiden Creek.  Sonar images and a short write up about it are available here: Eastern Search & Survey Facebook Page.

You have a memorial to the men lost on her posted on your excellent website. We are curious to find if there are any surviving crewmembers (there were 31 of them) still alive to record their story and to share with them the finding of their vessel. With your experience, I am hoping that you can share any potential sources of information that we can explore to find names at least of the survivors with the hopes of being able to find any of those men who may still be living. Thank you for your time, and the work that you do to document those ships and persons lost at sea.

Sincerely, Scott Annis
Port St. Lucie, Florida
Transcript of the facebook post:

Excited to share these side scan sonar images (showing above) of the 390'-long freighter SS MAIDEN CREEK, marking the first time she has been seen since foundering in a winter storm 78 years ago with the loss of 25 brave US merchant mariners. Long suspected to lie in depths accessible to technical divers and maritime historians, the location of the MAIDEN CREEK has been much sought after, including by us over the past 12 years.

Resting on the downslope of the continental shelf at a depth approaching 1,000', the wreck was a significant challenge to reach with a boat-towed system, but worthwhile to image and measure in order to verify its identity and document its condition. We were pleasantly surprised with the deep-water performance of our new custom sonar system and the leap forward in capabilities that it represents (thanks again to project partners DeepVision, Mercury Wire and B&B Precision).

We also owe a debt of gratitude to fishing sources that provided intel for this mission. They told us of a wreck that they had located by sifting through the logs of deep-water trawlers, which contain locations of underwater obstructions encountered by their nets. When viewed on the fishermen's fish finder, the wreck appeared to have significant relief above the bottom, leading them to suspect it could be the MAIDEN CREEK. We're happy to confirm their theory today with 95%+ confidence based on wreck site's location, layout, measurements and historical records, and we credit them with the discovery.

The MAIDEN CREEK is one of 110 standardized “Design 1022” ships that were built during World War I by American International Shipbuilding at Hog Island Shipyard, Pennsylvania. She operated as a commercial freighter during the interwar years until being requisitioned by the US Army upon the outbreak of World War II. Late December 1942 found her with a convoy of 15 ships bound for New York from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Tragically, though she was fast enough to be capable of beating an approaching storm to safe harbor, she was limited to the speed of the slowest vessel in the convoy, and thus became caught in the storm. As she labored in heavy seas, she began taking on water and her superstructure started icing up, which weighed her down and caused her to settle lower in the water. The captain gave the order to abandon ship at approximately 6:30pm on December 31, 1942 and the crew of 56 men took to lifeboats. Thirty one of them endured a hellish 73-hour ordeal in the icy, wind-swept waters until they were spotted by a search plane and rescued by another ship, the SS STAGHOUND. Tragically, the remaining 25 perished.

Today the MAIDEN CREEK rests upright on the bottom in relatively well-preserved condition. Her bow stands proud of the bottom by 35' and her bridge has over 40' of relief. A break in her hull between holds #4 and #5 separates the wreck into two sections spaced approximately 80' apart. Her masts no longer stand, presumably knocked down by trawlers, and at least one net is visible in these images. Many large and small fish currently call her home.

One other Design 1022 "Hog Islander" freighter is known to have been lost in the offshore waters of Long Island and New Jersey: the CAYRU, which was torpedoed by German u-boat (submarine) U-94 on March 8, 1942. The US Navy reported two positions for the loss of the CAYRU that range from 70 to 140 miles southwest of the wreck we imaged, making the CAYRU an unlikely fit. In contrast, the wreck's location aligns very well with the four sets of coordinates for the MAIDEN CREEK'S last known position that were reported by various sources, as noted by Gary Gentile in his book Shipwrecks of New York. A map/chart is attached to this post.

The wreck's great depth prohibits access by divers with current technology, but it is still worth examining in more detail, both to document it as well as find further proof of its identity. A future project could obtain photographic and/or video evidence through the use of a drop camera, ROV and/or research submarine.

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