All Hands Lost!
The U.S. Naval Reserve Force was created on August 29th, 1916 to answer the naval demands of looming American entry into the First World War. Over the course of the War, the number of enlisted men swelled from 8,000 to over 250,000. The establishment of Norfolk as a military hub during the War ensured the enlistment of men from this area. Norfolk residents Stephen Konstovich and Aubrey Luther Lamb, who lived at this address, served in the Naval Reserve onboard the U.S.S. Cyclops. They were both among the 309 men that lost their lives when the ship mysteriously disappeared near Bermuda in March of 1916. Despite exhaustive search efforts, no debris or evidence of any kind was ever found, sparking rumors and controversies related to the "Bermuda Triangle."
Backstory and Context
The U.S.S. Cyclops was a Proteus-Class collier, or coal-carrier, built by William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1910. It served as a fuel ship for the U.S. Naval fleet. On January 8th, 1918, the Cyclops left Norfolk and headed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She arrived in Brazil on January 28th, 1918 and departed Rio on February 15th, 1918 headed for Bahia. On February 22, 1918, the Cyclops left Bahia, headed on course to Baltimore, MD where it was to deliver its load of manganese ore. The Cyclops deviated from its course and made an unexpected stop in Barbados on March 3rd, 1918 due to indications of overloading. She departed Barbados on March 4th, 1918 and was never heard from again.
A massive search was undertaken by both military and civilian ships along the known route of the U.S.S. Cyclops but no debris or other evidence was ever discovered. On June 1st, 1918, Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, declared the Cyclops lost at sea. Fears of German sabotage abounded, fueled further by the German heritage of the Captain. In an outlandish turn, the disappearance of the Cyclops has long been linked to the Bermuda Triangle. This is given to the proximity of the ship's last known location to that region and to the World War II era disappearances of the Cyclops sister ships the U.S.S. Proteus and the U.S.S. Nereus near that area.
Despite these claims, it is now believed that the loss of the U.S.S. Cyclops was due to structural failure. This class of ship was known to have issues with the I-beams and the interactions of the structural materials with the coal and other metallic cargoes being transported. Due to this structural weakness, combined with to the known overload of the ship at the time of the ship's loss, and the cracked engine cylinder known to have existed prior to the ship's departure from Brazil, it is now believed most the ship foundered in rough seas.
The Unanswered Loss of the U.S.S. Cyclops-March 1918. Naval Historical Foundation. June 13, 2013. Accessed May 04, 2019. http://www.navyhistory.org/2013/06/unanswered-loss-uss-cyclops-march-1918/.
U.S.S. Cyclops (AC-4). Wikipedia. . Accessed May 04, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cyclops_(AC-4)#cite_note-Cutler2005-13.
Konstovich, Stephen. Virginia War History Commission, Norfolk, VA. Sargent Memorial Collection, Norfolk, Public Library, Norfolk, VA.
Lamb, Aubrey Luther. Virginia War History Commission, Norfolk, VA. Sargent Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, VA.