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Ario

Ship Stats

Location: 34°29'56.31"N, 76°53'52.23"W (34.49897, -76.89784)

Depth: 70 feet

Vessel Type: Tanker

Length: 436 feet Breadth: 56.1 feet

Gross Tonnage: 6,952 Cargo: Unknown

Built: 1920, Bethlehem Fairfield Shipbuilding Corp. Ltd., Bethlehem Steel, Fairfield, USA

Hull Number: Unknown Port of Registry: New York, N.Y., USA

Owner: Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. Inc., N.Y.

Lloyd's Register Details: Two steel decks, web frames, longitudinal framing, triple expansion engine

Former Names: N/A

Date Lost: March 15, 1942

Sunk By: U-158 Survivors: 8 of 34 survived (24 dead)

Data Collected on Site: Still and video photography; high resolution multibeam

Significance: Casualty of World War II's Battle of the Atlantic

Wreck Site

The remains of the site believed to be Ario are located inshore in relatively shallow waters, approximately 60 feet deep. Due to its location, the site is very broken apart due to the post-war efforts to clear navigable areas by dynamiting and wire-dragging sunken vessel remains considered navigational hazards. Additionally, being close to shore and with shifting sands, visibility at the site varies.

Multibeam survey of <em>Ario</em> wreck site
Multibeam survey of Ario wreck site (NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, 2016). Click here for a larger image. Image: NOAA
Scattered wreckage of <em>Ario</em>
Scattered wreckage of the Ario. Click here for a larger image. Photo: NOAA

Historical Background

Ario was a tanker built in 1920 by Bethlehem Fairfield Shipbuilding Corporation. It was owned and operated by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company out of New York. During the war, Ario continued to operate on a course through the Gulf of Mexico and up the East Coast. On March 15, 1942, Ario was traveling 11 miles southwest of Cape Lookout, N.C. The ship was unarmed and alone, when U-158 sent a torpedo that struck Ario on the starboard side. Fortunately, Ario managed to send a radio distress signal confirming the attack.

Ario's crew was ordered to abandon ship, but before any of the boats could be launched, U-158, captained by Erwin Rostin, surfaced and opened fire on the vessel. For 30 minutes U-158 fired upon the ship. During that time, the crew of eight officers and 26 crewmen tried to abandon the ship, but one of the lifeboats containing 12 men was struck before it reached the water, killing five men. Three other men later died of injuries sustained during the attack. After the attack, U-158 closed in on Ario to view the vessel and almost collided with a lifeboat before leaving the area. Once U-158 left the area, the master, chief mate, second mate, chief engineer and an able seaman re-boarded Ario to check for possible salvage. Unfortunately, the vessel was sinking, so once again they abandoned ship. After seven hours in the water, the survivors were picked up by USS Du Pont (DD-152) and landed at Charleston, S.C.

Ario
Photo of Ario from February 17, 1942. Click here for a larger image. Photo: Courtesy The Mariners' Museum

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