USS Cyclops (AC-4) was the second of four Proteus-class mines built for the United States Navy several years before the First World War. Named after the Cyclops, a race of giants in Greek mythology, the ship was the second US Navy ship to bear that name.
The unmarked loss of the ship, 306 crew and passengers sometime after March 4, 1918, made history as the largest non-direct combat loss of life in the history of the United States Navy. It was thought to have been captured or sunk by a German raider or submarine during the First World War, as it was lost and was carrying 10,800 long tons of manganese ore. However, the German authorities denied this information.
The Naval History and Heritage Command stated that it "probably sank in an unexpected storm", but the cause of the ship's loss is unknown.
The ship sailed from Rio de Janeiro on 16 February 1918 and entered Salvador on 20 February. Two days later, she set off for Baltimore, Maryland, without stopping, carrying the manganese ore. The ship was considered overloaded when it left Brazil, as its maximum capacity was 8,000 long tons (8,100 t). Before leaving port, Commander Worley had submitted a report that the starboard engine cylinder was cracked and not working. This report was confirmed by a research board that recommended that the ship be returned to the United States. She made an unplanned stopover in Barbados as the water level was above the Plimsoll line, indicating she was overloaded, but investigations in Rio proved that the ship was properly loaded and secured. Cyclops then sailed for Baltimore on March 4 and was said to have been spotted by the molasses tanker Amolco near Virginia on March 9, but this was denied by the Amolco's captain. Additionally, given that Cyclops was in Baltimore until March 13, it was highly unlikely that the ship would be near Virginia on March 9, as that location would only have kept it a day or so from Baltimore. In any case, the Cyclops never made it to Baltimore, and the shipwreck has never been found.
Reports indicate a severe storm raged in the Virginia Capes area on March 10, when rumors of a sighting of Cyclops by Amolco were heard. While some have suggested that overload, engine failure and bad weather may have conspired to sink the Cyclops, an extensive marine investigation concluded: "Many theories have been put forward, but none satisfactorily explain its disappearance." However, this synopsis is that the Cyclops' two sister ships, Proteus and Nereus, are part of World War II. It was written before it was lost at sea during World War II. Both ships were carrying heavy metal ore similar to those loaded during Cyclops' deadly voyage. In both cases their losses were theorized to be the result of catastrophic structural failure, but a more bizarre theory attributes the disappearance of all three ships to the Bermuda Triangle.
Rear Admiral George van Deurs suggested that the loss of the Cyclops could have been due to structural failure, as her sister ships suffered from wear issues of the I-beams running the length of the ship due to the abrasive nature of some of the cargo being carried. This was conclusively observed aboard the USS Jason and is believed to have contributed to the sinking of another similar freighter, the Chuky, which split in calm seas. In addition, the Overhead may have been struck by a storm with winds of 30-40 knots (56-74 km/h; 35-46 mph). These would result in waves that were supported at the crests of successive waves, but with the middle part unsupported, far enough to leave the bow and stern, causing extra tension in the already weakened central area.
On June 1, 1918, Deputy Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that the Cyclops had officially disappeared and all passengers and crew were dead.
At the time of the end of the search for Cyclops, a telegram was received by the State Department from Charles Ludlow Livingston, the US consul in Barbados:
"Minister of State
17, on the afternoon of April 2
Chapter 15. Confidential. Master CYCLOPS stated that to reach Bermuda, a sufficient amount of six hundred tons of coal was required on board. Engines are in very bad condition. There is not enough money and therefore a payment has been requested by me. Unusually quiet. I found out that he bought a ton of fresh meat, a ton of flour, and a thousand kilos of vegetables by paying 775 dollars here. Gather from different sources: It had plenty of coal, it was claimed to be inferior, it took coal to mix it, probably more than one thousand five hundred tons. The master was implied by others as the damn Dutchman, apparently disliked by other officers. Rumors arose on the way, men were imprisoned and one was executed; There were also some prisoners from the fleet in Brazilian waters, a life sentence. United States Consul General Gottschalk passenger, 231 crew, excluding officers and passengers. The crew have names, but not all the officers and passengers. Many Germanic names appear. In this port, number telegraphic or radio messages sent to the ship's captain or ship maintenance were delivered. All telegrams file head office for Barbados St. at Thomas. I have to suggest a review there. I fear that fate will be worse than sinking, although I have no clear reason but probably based on instinctive hatred towards the master.
BROTHER SHIPS OF USS CYCLOPS
Cyclops had three sister ships, all of which entered service in 1913 and all were unfortunate.
- USS Jupiter was converted into an aircraft carrier between 1920 and 1922 and relaunched as USS Langley. Langley was the first American aircraft carrier and was vital in developing United States naval aviation capabilities. Between 1936 and 1937 it was reconverted as a seaplane tender and renamed AV-3. He served in the Philippines in December 1941 and went to Australia following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. On February 27, 1942, while carrying warplanes to Southeast Asia, it was attacked by Japanese aircraft and was hit by five bombs, causing critical damage. After her surviving crew were rescued, Langleyon was scuttled by torpedoes fired by the accompanying destroyers.
- The USS Proteus was sold on March 8, 1941, became part of the Canadian Merchant Navy and disappeared at sea some time after November 25, 1941, possibly with a load of bauxite ore (to make aluminium) without a trace in or near the Caribbean Sea.
- USS Nereus was sold to the Canadian Aluminum Company on February 27, 1941. After December 10, 1941, after Saint Thomas left the US Virgin Islands, a cargo of bauxite ore (for making aluminum) disappeared without a trace.