On the Bottom: The Raising of the Submarine S-51 – Edward Ellsberg
On the evening of September 25, 1925 the U.S. Navy submarine S-51 was rammed by the steamship SS City of Rome in open seas off Block Island, Rhode Island, and sank in 132 feet of water, with the loss of 33 lives. This disaster evoked such a storm of popular indignation against the Navy Department that something had to be done. It was felt that at all costs a determined attempt must be made to raise the S-51, if only to restore public confidence. No vessel had ever been raised from such a depth, and to the technical mind the thing was impossible. The task of salvaging the submarine fell to Lieutenant Commander Edward Ellsberg and a group of naval divers scavenged from all over the fleet. It was done painstakingly over a nine month period and involved obstacle after obstacle, all while battling rough seas, icy waters, and “the bends.” Working in hard hats with lead boots, in minimal light, while dragging air lines behind them, each diver had about an hour of exhausting and terrifying work before a lengthy decompression process. It is no exaggeration to say that the impossible was achieved.
Author(s): Edward Ellsberg