A Brief History
On March 4, 1918, the USS Cyclops kept a date with destiny!
Cyclops, a US Navy coal carrier (collier) heading to Baltimore with a load of manganese ore.
The Cyclops had left from Rio De Janeiro on February 16, 1918 and was supposed to arrive in Baltimore on March 13, 1918. Mysteriously, she disappeared without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle and nothing of her or her crew has ever been found.
Chalk it up to the Bermuda Triangle? Or was she sunk by a U-Boat? Well, no U-Boat ever reported such a sinking and the German navy has repeatedly said they did not sink the Cyclops. At 542 feet long, the Cyclops would be a victim worth bragging about.
It is speculated by US Navy investigators that the cargo of manganese ore may have become wet and sloshed back and forth in the ship creating an uneven load and causing the ship to turn over, but without a wreck or survivor’s account no one can know.
A totally cracked angle to this tale (as if a ship disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle is not cracked enough) is the Captain of the ship. Capt. George Worley was not who he said he was! He was actually Johan Wichmann born in Germany and an illegal alien in the United States! He had snuck off a ship in San Francisco in 1878 and had changed his name to George Worley. Compounding the bizarre story is the Captain’s behavior. Tyrannical and petty, Worley was said to have run around the ship with a pistol in pursuit of one of the ensigns! Even creepier, he was known to make his rounds of the ship wearing long underwear and a Derby hat! His obvious pro-German bias also made him hated by non-German members of his crew.
Another twist to this incident, a passenger on this final voyage of the Cyclops was the US Consul General in Rio, Alfred Gottschalk, another well known and roundly disliked pro-German. Investigators speculated the Captain and Gottschalk may have turned the ship over to Germany, but this allegation is still denied by the German government.
The USS Cyclops AC-4 has also made its way into popular culture, becoming the star of Clive Cussler’s novel Cyclops, featured in the video game Dark Void, and appearing in television episodes of Quantum Leap and Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!
The loss of the Cyclops, a 20,000 ton ship over 500 feet long and carrying 306 people still stands as the worst US Navy non-combat disaster ever. As such, the Navy took a long hard look into what had happened, and came up empty! Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think happened? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, see…
Cussler, Clive. Cyclops. Simon & Schuster, 1986.
Howell, Jeffrey. Dark Void. Capcom, 2010. Xbox 360 Video Game.
Quasar, Gian. HELL SHIP. Brodwyn-Moor & Doane, 2011.