"Hutton" and the "Papoose"
January 30, 1998:
The two wreck sites are as different as night and day. Each suffered the same fate under different conditions.
Inshore site (thought up to time of report to be Hutton):
This wreck barely resembles a ship at all. Resting in 72+ feet of water at 34 30'.09N 76 54'.18W, the vessel has been completely demolished down to about 10 to 12 feet of relief. The vessel was cleared to a depth of 41 feet with the demolition operations ending on 3/ 4/ 44. It has been depth charged, wire dragged, dynamited, pulled apart and picked at. Today it looks like a big underwater "junk yard". The wreck area is about 200 feet long by 50 feet wide, with the most prominent feature being the two large boilers and condenser lying in the stern section of the ship. Hull measurements are useless as they could not possibly match the original dimensions, and offer no information about the ship.
This wreck is nearly intact, lying upside down in 125+ feet of water, with heavy damage at the bow extending aft to just abaft of the foredeck. There is a large crack amidships extending the draft of the vessel but aft of this is basically intact. The ships large rudder is clearly visible on the stern, but no anchors have ever been seen at this site. The vessel is located at 34 08'.35N 76 39'.09W7, and is a favorite of the sport diving community, with it's vast wildlife and tropical marine vegetation.
Evidence supporting the misidentification:
1) Depth of water at position of Hutton sinking. The original logs of U-124 clearly state that the fires from Hutton went out in 40 meters of water. The time in the logs for this was 2355. The Navy memo states that the Hutton sank at 2245. This is even more indicative of the depth of water. In order for the Hutton to have sunk in 71 feet of water, she would have had to drift 20 miles inshore in 1 hour and 10 minutes! U-124's position was accurate and the U-boats of WWII were equipped with a rudimentary sonar (fishfinder) device, so the depth of the water when the fires went out was accurate to within the recorded depth.
3) Artifacts. A small china chip located by SIDCO divers (see 97pap002) near the area thought to be one of the galleys, matches a bowl recovered by sport divers and displayed in Discovery Dive Shop in Beaufort. This bowl is marked with the makers ("O.P. Co. Syracuse")on the top. Also, it is marked with a logo consisting of a blue flag surrounding a letter " S". There is no "S" having to do with the W.E. Hutton, past or present. The possibility exists that the chinaware is from a previous owner or name of the vessel, in which case it would match the name "Silvanus," which is Papoose's original name.
4) Hull damage. The inshore site is of no value as far as hull identification. The offshore site is, however, very important. All of the damage is in the bow of the ship. Along with the crack amidships, this damage corresponds with both the log book from U-124 and the eyewitness accounts told in the Navy memos. The logs state that the first torpedo hit in the bowstem of the Hutton, not Papoose. This would have contained the damage to the bow area. The second hit to strike Hutton was amidships, overturning the pilot house. This caused the crack in the center of the ship. Had this ship really been Papoose, the damage would be from abaft of midships, aft into the engine room (the engine room on this kind of ship was always in the aft part of the vessel), and the bow would have been completely intact, including windlass and anchors. The Papoose was hit both times in or just ahead of the engine room and would have had huge gaping holes in the engine room portion of the ship. (The Navy report states that the second hit damage extended from below the waterline to 8 feet or more above the water.)
Recommendations of SIDCO:
Though the evidence is mostly circumstantial in nature, it does point very strongly to the two sites being reversed. Just the damage pattern of the offshore site and Mohr's watching the fires go out in 125 feet of water suggests that Hutton could not possibly be in 71 feet of water and only 20 miles from shore. If we have proven that the Hutton is offshore then what is the inshore site? Though somewhat remote in possibility the Papoose would have had to drift approximately 20 miles in the next two days. This being the only "less than feasible" item of evidence, then we must consider this in the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "When the impossible has been eliminated, then what is left must be the truth, no matter how incredible."
Therefore without any further contradicting evidence, we must present this project as complete and deem that the two sites are in fact switched and that the Hutton lies offshore and that the Papoose is the inshore wreck. (1998 Dive Season)
For now, at least, until someone finds a bell or even better, an "engine builders plate", based on the logs written by Mohr, the "inshore" site cannot be W. E. Hutton. Until funding and time allows for more documentation, this is as far as we can go. (1999 Dive Season)
If you have evidence contrary to our findings so far, we would be delighted to photograph it and solve this mystery, once and for all!