By Linh Bui

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — One of the great mysteries of the sea has been solved after nearly a century.

The final resting place of the U.S.S. Conestoga, which was built in Baltimore, was recently found by NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage program.

Linh Bui explains how they made the discovery.

Fifty-six men perished on the ship, so it’s the bittersweet conclusion families waited generations to learn.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate was the last known location of the U.S.S. Conestoga.

On March 25, 1921, the Navy tugboat and 56 sailors set sail for Pearl Harbor–never to be heard from again.

“Conestoga disappeared without a trace. There were clues, but faint clues and nothing definitive,” said Jim Delgado, head of NOAA’s Maritime Heritage.

Three months later on June 30, 1921, the ship and all aboard were declared “lost at sea.”

“The sea swallowed them,” Delgado said.

The captain of the ship was Diane Gollnitz’s grandfather. She says her mother was always haunted that she never knew what happened.

“Right up until her deathbed, she mentioned she would be joining her father. So he was always important in her life, even though there was a void,” said Gollnitz.

But in 2014, the mystery started to unravel. Delgado was researching shipwrecks off of San Francisco when an underwater robot with a camera found a tugboat–one that sank in peril.

And so they Googled: “Tugboat, missing, golden gate, no trace,” Delgado said. “Conestoga’s name pops up.”

But it wasn’t until a video that they found what they were looking for.

“That’s a single purpose, three-inch, .50 caliber gun–looking at the size of it–and that’s a World War I era mount,” said Delgado.

A smoking gun with photographic evidence.

“I think for all of us, it was a pretty powerful moment–to realize after all this time, that this mystery had been solved. But then, the weight of responsibility that comes with that,” Delgado said.

For Diane, it’s a void filled, knowing her grandfather is resting in peace.

“There’s life down there, and he loved the sea. And he’s with the sea. He’s with the living sea and the deceased sea,” she said.

On Wednesday, the families of four of the sailors from the Conestoga gathered to hear the real story of what happened, and in memorial, a bell was struck for each sailor.

According to our media partner, The Baltimore Sun, the Conestoga was christened at the Sparrows Point shipyard in Maryland in 1903.


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