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Diamond Shoals Lightship LV-71

Ship Stats

Location: 35°5'11.44"N, 75°19'38.06"W (35.08651, -75.32724)

Depth: 200 feet

Length: 122 feet Breadth: 28.6 feet

Gross Tonnage: 590 Cargo: N/A

Built: 1897 lightship built by Bath Iron Works Ltd., Maine

Hull Number: 22 Port of Registry: USA

Owner: U.S. Lighthouse Board and its successor, the U.S. Lighthouse Service

Lloyd's Register Details: N/A

Former Names: N/A

Date Lost: August 6, 1918

Sunk By: U-140 Survivors: 12 of 12 survived (0 dead)

Data Collected on Site: Multibeam sonar; listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Historical Background

The lightship, known as LV-71, launched from Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine on December 28, 1897. The two-masted composite hulled, steam powered, propeller driving ship entered into a contract with the Lighthouse Board (predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard). LV-71 served as a floating lighthouse, sound signal station and navigational beacon. For over 20 years, the lightship marked the treacherous waters of Diamond Shoals off North Carolina to ensure other vessels could navigate safely.

The LV-71 is also significant in that it is the only lightship vessel ever sunk during enemy action. On August 6, 1918, LV-71 had reported by radio the presence of a submarine that had torpedoed the unarmed American steamer Merak. The German U-boat, U-140, intercepted the warning, and headed for LV-71. The submarine started firing its deck guns at the lightship and first took out the wireless room. As the U-140's shelling continued, LV-71's 12 man crew lowered its yawl boat and escaped off the doomed vessel. They didn't have time to gather any supplies or belongings as they rowed west for five miles all the while watching the U-140 fire on their ship.

The crew, consisting of two officers, two radio operators, and eight others, left LV-71 around 2:30 pm and finally reached shore just north of Cape Hatteras wireless station at 9:30 pm. According to A History of U.S. Lightships by Willard Flint, more than 25 friendly vessels were warned away from the area by the lightship.

Present Day

LV-71 is located in 180 feet of water and as a government vessel, it is still owned by the United States. Under an agreement reached in October 2014, NOAA, through the nearby Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, conducted work required under the National Historic Preservation Act to document the wreck's physical remains, nominate the site to the National Register of Historic Places, and partner with the local community and U.S. Coast Guard to share LV-71's story for the 100 anniversary of its sinking and beyond.

In September 2015, NOAA and the Bureau of Energy Management along with the United States Coast Guard, East Carolina University and UNC Coastal Studies Institute surveyed Diamond Shoals Lightship LV-71. Maritime archaeologists conducted and completed an archaeological assessment of the wreck site and the data collected was used to nominate the site to the National Register of Historic Places.

In previous years, NOAA and its partners have worked to document and survey numerous World War II shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast associated with the Battle of the Atlantic. Although there is a much larger number of WWII shipwrecks located off the East Coast, there are several that were sunk in 1918 by German U-boats. At least five are known to have been sunk off North Carolina's coast. Among those lost are the Diamond Shoals Lightship LV-71, Merak, Mirlo, and Harpathia. Each shipwreck tells an amazing story that connects this area to global events. The LV-71 also highlights the heroism and sacrifice of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Multibeam sonar image of LV-71.
Mutlibeam survey of Diamond Shoals Lightship LV-71 (NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, 2016). Click here for a larger image. Image: NOAA


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