Connecticut divers discover wreckage of scuttled 1946 submarine in Long Island Sound

The Defender, a 92-foot-long (28-meter-long) boat, was found Sunday by a team led by Richard Simon, a commercial diver from Coventry, Connecticut.

Associated Press

Apr 19, 2023, 9:19 AM

Updated 364 days ago

Share:

Connecticut divers have discovered the wreckage of an experimental submarine that was built in 1907 and later scuttled in Long Island Sound.
The Defender, a 92-foot-long (28-meter-long) boat, was found Sunday by a team led by Richard Simon, a commercial diver from Coventry, Connecticut.
Simon said he had been interested in the story of the Defender for years. He spent months going over known sonar and underwater mapping surveys of the bottom of the sound, as well as government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, to identify any anomaly that fit the size of the sub.
“A submarine has a very distinct shape,” he said. “It needs to be 100 feet long and 13 feet in diameter. So I made a list of everything that was that long and there was one target on that list.”
Simon then assembled a group of top wreck divers to determine if the Defender was in the location he had identified.
Poor tidal conditions forced them to abandon an attempt last Friday. They returned on Sunday and discovered the Defender lying on the bottom, more than 150 feet (45 meters) beneath the water's surface, off the coast of Old Saybrook.
“It was legitimately hiding in plain sight,” he said. “It’s on the charts. It’s known about in Long Island Sound, just no one knew what it was.”
Simon described the agony of waiting on the deck of his research vessel, staring at a dive buoy in the fog and waiting for his two divers to surface. Once they did and confirmed they had found a sub, the team erupted in “pure joy,” he said.
Simon said he didn't want to give the exact depth, because he said that could give away the sub's location.
The submarine, originally named the Lake, was built by millionaire Simon Lake and his Bridgeport-based Lake Torpedo Boat Company in hopes of winning a competition for a U.S. Navy contract, according to NavSource Online, a website dedicated to preserving naval history.
It was experimental vessel, with wheels to move along the sea bottom and a door that allowed divers to be released underwater, Simon said.
The company lost that competition and Lake then tried refitting the boat for minesweeping, salvage and rescue work, renaming it the Defender. But he never found a buyer. It was a well-known sub and was even visited by aviator Amelia Earhart in 1929, Simon said.
But the submarine spent many years unused, docked in New London before eventually being abandoned on a mud flat near Old Saybrook. It was scuttled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1946, but the corps never disclosed where, Simon said.
Simon said it was clear when his team found the wreckage that it was indeed the Defender. The length, the size and shape of protrusions on the submarine’s distinct keel, and the shape and location of diving planes characteristic of Lake-built vessels, all helped identify it, he said.
Simon and his team plan to spend the summer diving on the sub, filming it and taking photographs. He said he and the company he and his wife own, Shoreline Diving, put up the money for the search. He said he hasn’t figured out how to monetize the find, but said that wasn’t the goal in looking for it.
He has already contacted the Navy to see if it would be interested in helping preserve the wreckage.
The ship has some protections under what is known as the Abandoned Shipwreck Act, a 1988 law that would allow it to be treated as an archaeological or historical site instead of a commercial property to be salvaged, he said..
“So, as a wreck diver, I can go visit history; I can touch it; I can experience it,” he said. “It's just a different connection to history, to the past that we don't have in any other activity.”


More from News 12
1:31
Darien officials oppose proposed dispensary on Darien-Stamford border

Darien officials oppose proposed dispensary on Darien-Stamford border

1:57
Mostly cloudy skies, light showers and cold temperatures in Connecticut

Mostly cloudy skies, light showers and cold temperatures in Connecticut

1:46
Monroe police they have person of interest in nearly 50-year-old cold case

Monroe police they have person of interest in nearly 50-year-old cold case

0:24
Officials: Firefighter and occupant injured in Norwalk house fire

Officials: Firefighter and occupant injured in Norwalk house fire

0:29
Bills on magic mushrooms, ride-share transparency and 'nip' bottles will not become law

Bills on magic mushrooms, ride-share transparency and 'nip' bottles will not become law

0:20
Police: Teen shot in the head in Bridgeport last week dies from injuries

Police: Teen shot in the head in Bridgeport last week dies from injuries

0:58
Ellen Ash Peters dies at 94, was 1st woman to serve as chief justice of CT Supreme Court

Ellen Ash Peters dies at 94, was 1st woman to serve as chief justice of CT Supreme Court

3:30
Explore the classic old New England-feel in the town of Chester

Explore the classic old New England-feel in the town of Chester

2:15
Stamford HS senior receives full ride to college through golf caddie scholarship

Stamford HS senior receives full ride to college through golf caddie scholarship

0:24
Norwalk police: Miami man arrested for sexual assault after lengthy investigation

Norwalk police: Miami man arrested for sexual assault after lengthy investigation

0:51
Save money while helping the planet with these 12 energy-efficient tips

Save money while helping the planet with these 12 energy-efficient tips

0:29
Stamford police: driver involved in pedestrian crash in March faces negligent homicide charges

Stamford police: driver involved in pedestrian crash in March faces negligent homicide charges

2:33
Medical organizations push to correct racial disparities in algorithm that made Black people wait longer for kidneys

Medical organizations push to correct racial disparities in algorithm that made Black people wait longer for kidneys

2:11
Milford business owner loses house and dog in fire; effort to help underway

Milford business owner loses house and dog in fire; effort to help underway

0:21
Criminal prosecutors take over Bridgeport’s ballot fraud cases

Criminal prosecutors take over Bridgeport’s ballot fraud cases

2:13
Time running out for hundreds of bills at state Capitol

Time running out for hundreds of bills at state Capitol

1:51
Ceremony held in Greenwich to mark 1 year anniversary with Ukrainian sister city

Ceremony held in Greenwich to mark 1 year anniversary with Ukrainian sister city

0:27
Norwalk, Fairfield and Wilton fire crews assist Westport Fire Dept. in Hunt Club Lane house fire

Norwalk, Fairfield and Wilton fire crews assist Westport Fire Dept. in Hunt Club Lane house fire

0:20
Firefighter injured when truck crashes into Shelton condo

Firefighter injured when truck crashes into Shelton condo

2:24
Connecticut joins partnership to hold airlines accountable for consumer complaints

Connecticut joins partnership to hold airlines accountable for consumer complaints