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SS San Diego-Navy Cruiser 1918




    The Armored Cruiser 6 was originally named the USS California, the ship that
would later be renamed to the USS San Diego. She was built for the United
States Navy by the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, California. This
shipyard also built the USS Olympia almost ten years before. The Olympia is
available for tours at its Philadelpia, Pennsylvania dock. The hull of the
ACR6 was launched April 28, 1904 almost two years after the keel was laid.
It was 503 feet long and had a beam of almost 70 feet. The ship weighed
about 15,000 tons fully outfitted and loaded for duty. Two eighteen foot
diameter propellers were driven by two steam powered engines. These four
cylinder engines were supplied steam by sixteen boilers. These engines could
25,000 horse power.
    ACR6 was commissioned into the United States Navy on August 1, 1907 as
the USS California. In addition to two torpedo tubes, she carried four
8-inch, fourteen 6-inch, and eighteen 3-inch guns.
    She operated in the Pacific Ocean, visiting many ports including the
Philippines, China, Japan, Hawaii, Peru, and Guam. In January of 1911, she
is designated the flagship of the Pacific fleet. On September 1, 1914, the
ship is renamed the USS San Diego. This was done as a result of a new policy
of naming battleships after states. Shortly after, a boiler explosion kills
nine crewman during a full speed run in the Gulf of California.
    The USS San Diego left the water of the Pacific Ocean and entered the
Atlantic Ocean via the Panama Canal for the first time during July 1917. She
served in the Atlantic as a convoy escort, at one time stopping at the port
in La Croisie, France. After removal of some of her 6-inch guns in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the San Diego steams to New York to meet up with
a transatlantic convoy. At 11:05 a.m. most the crew of the San Diego felt a
dull thud which originated from the port side engine room. The crew that
worked in this area must have experienced a large explosion as bulkheads
were smashed in. The ocean soon followed and within 20 minutes the USS San
Diego gently rolled over and was gone, along with six of her crew. It is
amazing that 1,177 of the ship's crew and officers were able to abandon ship
in a such a short time.
    The German submarine U.156 is credited with sinking the USS San Diego.
The submarine laid mines in the area where the cruiser was lost.
Unfortunately we will never know the details of the U.156 operations, as the
submarine was sunk on her return voyage after entering a mine field.
    The USS San Diego today lies upside down about eleven miles southeast of
Fire Island inlet, Long Island, New York at Loran 26543.4 43693.2 in 115
feet of sea water.
    The weight of the massive armor belt along with the hull and it's
contents crushed the superstructure into the sand soon after she sank. The
hull is relatively intact, its keel is at seventy feet and the sand is at
around 115 feet. The ship rests upside down with a list to the port side.
This angle allows more light on the starboard side, which commonly called
'the light side'. The port side is called 'the dark side' because of the
shadow in which it resides. The sand line is higher on this side because of
the list. The stern has started to collapse, but the propeller shafts, which
are the diameter of 55 gallon drums, hang out into space at the seventy foot
mark. The propellers were removed in the early sixties, however one was lost
while on its way to Staten Island, New York. A bilge keel on each side on
the hull runs a good length of the ship. These were attached to give the
ship stability. They now give divers a line of reference for navigating the
wreck. Along 'the light side', the 3-inch guns can be found sticking out
from their mounts in the hull.
    Many holes exist at various locations around the hull. These can give
advanced divers the opportunity to investigate the San Diego's dark
interior. The inside doesn't resemble a ship, but rather a junk yard of
collapsed machinery, bulkheads, and ship stores. Penetration of the wreck
requires special skills and equipment. Hallways and rooms ranging in size
from small to very large can quickly silt out, reducing visibilty to zero.
Six divers have died on this wreck. It is the most popular dive site in New
England, attracting hundreds of divers every year. The US Navy has a policy
for removing artifacts from sunken aircraft and shipwrecks.

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