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Ship Stats

Location: 34°8'39.26"N, 76°7'48.22"W (34.14424, -76.13006)

Depth: 480 feet

Vessel Type: Tanker

Length: 438.7 feet Breadth: 57.2 feet

Gross Tonnage: 7,277 Cargo: Water ballast

Built: 1925, Livingstone and Cooper Ltd., Hessle, UK.

Hull Number: 198 Port of Registry: Panama, Panama

Owner: United States War Shipping Administration, Chartered to Marine Transport Lines, Inc.

Lloyd's Register Details: Steel hull, two decks, fitted for oil fuel, longitudinal framing, 2 two stroke cycle single acting oil engines

Former Names: Otokia (Union Steam Ship Co. of New Zealand, 1925-1937)

Date Lost: May 4, 1943

Sunk By: U-129 Survivors: 49 of 51 survived (2 dead)

Data Collected on Site: Side scan sonar

Significance: Panam was the last U-boat casualty off North Carolina's coast during World War II's Battle of the Atlantic.

Wreck Site

Low frequency sonar image of a ship's bow thought to be the Panam. Click here for a larger image. Click here for a larger image of full scan. Images: NOAA

Although the wreck site has not been confirmed as Panam, its size, dimensions and location make it very likely the wreck of Panam. The wreck site is located in nearly 500 feet of water off Cape Lookout, N.C. The remains are nearly completely intact from bow to stern. The vessel is upright on its keel with much of the superstructure, particularly king posts, still erect on the deck fore, aft and amidships.

Historical Background

EM Clark in 1941
Panam, location unknown, dated August 29, 1941. Click here for a larger image. Photo: Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum

Panam was one of many Panamanian vessels that had been seized by the United States government at the outbreak of hostilities in Europe and during the years preceding America's entry into the war. After it was seized, Panam was assigned to the Marine Transport Lines of New York, N.Y., but still operated as a Panamanian vessel. The tanker operated with a complement of 37 merchant seamen and 14 Naval Armed Guard for a total of 51 crewmembers on board.

On May 1, 1943, Panam, carrying only ballast water, left New York traveling in Convoy NK-53 which consisted of 17 vessels heading to Key West, Fla. On May 4, Panam developed engine troubles causing the vessel to lag behind the convoy. U-129 was in the area and spotted the straggling ship. U-129 launched one torpedo hitting Panam on the port side in the engine room, killing two crewmembers. Just minutes later, a second torpedo struck on the port side amidships, destroying the pump room. The remaining crewmembers and Naval Armed Guards abandoned ship in three lifeboats. They were picked up by USS SC-664 and taken to Morehead City, N.C.

Panam was the last vessel to be lost off the North Carolina coast during the Battle of the Atlantic.

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