It Turned out to be Piece History Underwater
At the same time, there was all this other stuff going on. The controversies and the rivalries and, in some cases, the bitterness and acrimony that went on between different boats. I’m thinking now at the unbelievable rifts that developed between Steve Belinda’s group on the Wahoo and Bill Nagle’s group on the Seeker. What caused all that?»There were days when I walked around going, “I don’t like any of them.” It came down to issues about respect and the way they conducted themselves. I think Bill was an incredible diver, and in many ways, he was my mentor from a technical standpoint. When we start talking about the rivalries between Belinda and others, a lot of that is back to this, “I know the way” mentality. New ideas, new concepts, new technology, don’t sit well in that environment.
Now you guys were in pursuit of what you were then simply calling the “U-Who.” The notoriety that’s been achieved by this pioneering search to find the damn thing and then to identify what it was and what navy it belonged to is amazing.»Yeah, it was Bill Nagel’s personal interest in exploring new shipwrecks that led us to it. He traded Loran numbers with a fishing boat captain. They had a wreck offshore; Bill had a little wreck inshore. The fisherman wanted to hang inshore when the weather’s crappy, because it’s good for business. Bill loved the idea of a new shipwreck. This guy said, “I know there’s something out there, I know it’s big, I know you guys dive deep, let’s trade.” At what depth?»About 200 feet, he thought. How did this fishing guy find it?»He was running a trip out to the canyons, and quite literally stumbled upon it. At this time, I think there were only three fishing boat captains who knew about this site. But they had no idea that this was a WWII submarine, and they certainly – at this point – did not know that this could be a U-boat.
Who went out there and dove it the first time?»I crossed out a date on Labor Day weekend in 1991. Bill put five divers on, and I put five divers on it. Our deal was that we were going to go out and try to find the wreck, and if we don’t find it, we keep looking. We made about five passes trying to hook into this thing, but we were having problems with the bottom recorder. One bottom recorder was saying it was up to 260 feet, and the other one said it was around 220. In reality it was about 230 feet, but there was a concern about taking a boatload of guys when we said it looked about 200 feet, and all of a sudden there’s a huge difference between 200 feet and 260 feet on air. So our plan was, once we finally got grappled into the wreck, that I would go down and take a look at the wreck. If it was an old trash barge or something in 250 feet of water, that’s not where we wanted to spend a day or risk the other divers.