A commercial diving company announced this week it had found the remains of an experimental US submarine called the Defender in the waters of Long Island Sound off the coast of the state of Connecticut.
The Defender was designed and built over a century ago by eccentric millionaire and inventor Simon Lake in the hopes of winning a US Navy contract, but a competitor beat him out. Lake spent years adapting and refitting the sub for everything from underwater rescue missions to Arctic expeditions to salvaging gold from sunken ships but, unlike his other submarines, never found a buyer.
The vessel languished for years in Connecticut before being scuttled by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1946.
A team assembled by Richard Simon, vice president of Shoreline Diving Services, researched the sub’s possible final resting place and dived and identified the Defender’s remains on April 16, more than 75 years after her sinking.
Simon grew up hearing stories about Lake and his submarines from Connecticut ship captains and explorers. Among the stories were rumors that submarine rested somewhere off New London in Long Island Sound.
According to Simon:
“Stories about Lake and his inventions fascinated me. The secret to identifying this historical relic was to connect the available research to the stories. You could say Defender was hiding in plain sight all this time in a waterway I’ve traveled for years.”
On the day of the discovery, Simon oversaw deck operations while divers Steve Abbate and Joe Mazraani descended to the wreckage. The sub had been first imaged but not positively identified as part of a bathymetric survey by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a sonar survey by Eastern Search and Survey. Abbate and Mazraani found an intact submarine, and the distinctive protrusions on it allowed them to positively identify it as the Defender.
Abbate, who made the dive the day before his 60th birthday, said:
“It is such a thrill to finally put our hands on this important piece of maritime history. It’s also an incredible birthday present!”
Recreational divers may have found the wreck of the experimental submarine Defender in Long Island Sound. Built in 1907, the sub had wheels to roll along the ocean floor to support salvage and rescue operations. The Navy declined to buy Defender, and she was scuttled in 1946. pic.twitter.com/woB6zE35xu
— U.S. Naval Institute (@NavalInstitute) April 18, 2023