Submarine Thought to be Scuttled USS Grenadier Located in Malacca Strait
A team of technical divers based in Singapore and Thailand is awaiting official confirmation of the discovery of a submarine scuttled near Phuket more than 75 years ago during the Second World War.
The team believes their discovery is the USS Grenadier (SS-210), a Tambor-class submarine, the first type of submarine with the speed and range to successfully function as a United States Navy fleet submarine, a vessel capable of operating together with the surface-led battle fleet. The Grenadier was scuttled by her crew on 21 April 1943, after being seriously damaged in an underwater explosion from ordnance dropped by a Japanese aircraft.
The four-man team, Jean Luc Rivoire and Benoit Laborie from Singapore, and Phuket-based Ben Reymenants and Lance Horowitz carried out six dives over a period of six months to try and identify the submarine. The team is currently waiting on verification of their finding by the United States Naval History and Heritage Command.
The divers located the wreck of the Grenadier using side-scan sonar, lying at a depth of 83m in the Straits of Malacca, approximately 80 nautical miles south of Phuket, Thailand. The team searched the archives of twelve countries which deployed submarines during the Second World War for all potential vessels reported lost and not yet found in the area. The archive search led to three possibilities, but the description and dimensions seemed to fit the Grenadier perfectly.
The team took measurements of various parts of the lost submarine such as the conning tower, hatches and capstans. These measurements were identical to technical drawings of the Tambor-class submarine obtained from the United States National Archives and Records Administration.
'It is every technical diver’s dream to find a piece of history,' said Lance Horowitz. 'We train a lot for these challenging dives because we like to explore and find what is not easily accessible. This is our first time making such a discovery but we are searching for other shipwrecks too.
'Ben gathered a set of coordinates from various sources, mainly coming from fishermen,' said Horowitz. 'The local fisherman would often lose their nets while fishing on these spots, which can be natural rocks or artificial reefs such as shipwrecks. Our boat is equipped for such a search and for days we patiently scanned all coordinates until we saw a shape on the sonar screen. We could not dive into the site straight away because of bad weather conditions and strong currents, and [the diving] requires a fair amount of planning. But, after six dives on the shipwreck, we are now 95 per cent confident that this is the USS Grenadier.'
The wreck lies upright on a sandy seabed, partially covered by fishing nets and with its hatches fully opened, a sign that the ship was deliberately sunk in keeping with the historical accounts of the survivors. The divers also found an electrical resistor inscribed with the name of a Chicago-based company which has manufactured electrical components for more than 90 years, including those used by the US Navy.
While the clues so far discovered by the team point towards the wreckage being that of the Grenadier, immediate confirmation was not possible. 'We could not find a plaque with the name of the ship,' said Reymenants, 'because the outer hull of the submarine has been eroded and probably torn off by the nets and the anchors of fishing boats.
The wreck's precise location is currently being kept a closely guarded secret, as extensive looting for scrap metal from historical shipwrecks is a known problem in the region. The divers are cooperating with relevant government agencies and adhering to international guidelines regarding war heritage sites.
'It is thrilling, when you arrive at the bottom of the ocean, in the middle of nowhere and you start to distinguish the massive silhouette. It then comes to mind the history attached to it and being lucky enough to be the first one to approach the submarine since it sank more than 75 years ago. It is a truly powerful feeling.' said Jean-Luc Rivoire.
The divers are planning more trips to the shipwreck in the coming months. 'A lot more remains to be explored like the guns, the torpedo tubes and the periscopes,' said Reymenants, 'we hope to definitively identify it, bring some closure and honour the memories of the war heroes who served on this ship.'
Visit the team's Facebook Page for more information on the dives and progress with the wreck's identification - and check out the video of their discovery below: