Long Island’s coastal waters are rich in maritime history. Some stories are well known, others lesser known, and some waiting to tell their tale. In 2020, a friend, knowing I enjoyed local history, showed me an undated black and white photo of two surplus U.S. Navy boats in a cove off of Shore Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. The area is presently Eagle Dock Beach. I was intrigued with the boat stenciled 182 on her bow and began my research.
Perhaps from watching the movie PT109 and building the model boat as a child, I initially presumed it was a Patrol Torpedo boat, but I learned that very few survived their service. Utilizing the website, Navsource, I forwarded the photograph and they provided me with a link to SC182, a World War I Submarine Chaser. The webpage included: photos from the Naval History and Heritage Command of the first crew, the boat serving in the North Atlantic and returning to the United States.
The SC-1 class of 77 ton, 110’ submarine chasers, affectionately known as the Splinter Fleet, had a crew of two officers and 18 sailors. Powered by three, six cylinder 220hp engines, with a speed of 18 knots, they had a range of 1,000 nm. Four 600 gallon fuel tanks would “cover just a third of an Atlantic crossing, the 200+ subchasers … were either towed or accompanied by escorts with fuel and provisions.” Armament included a 3”/23 caliber gun, two .30 caliber Colt machine guns and depth charges. They featured that latest in hydrophone sensors to detect German U boats. With the major shipyards tasked with building the larger vessels, smaller boat builders, already skilled at crafting wooden boats, were called upon to build the chasers. SC182 was constructed by International Shipbuilding Company in Nyack, NY and delivered to the U.S. Navy on May 6, 1918. She arrived at Inverness, Scotland on April 24, 1919 and eventually saw service with the North Sea Minesweeping Detachment.
Three years later, SC182 was sold on June 24, 1921 from the Third Naval District Supply Depot, South Brooklyn, NY with an appraised value of $11,400. For prospective buyers, the Sale of Navy Vessels catalogue included plans on how the chasers could be converted to yachts or fishing vessels.
From the angle the photo was taken, the bow of another boat is partially obstructed, leaving only her last number “3” visible. The South Brooklyn location sale catalogue lists only one chaser for sale with an ending number of “3”… SC43. Records indicate that both 182 and 43 were sold to Joseph G. Hitner of Philadelphia, P.A. Henry A. Hitner's Sons Company (later Hitner Industrial Dismantling Company) purchased many surplus Navy vessels; converting some to merchant ships while scrapping others.
A 1947 aerial photograph from the Suffolk County (NY) GIS website shows the boats in the cove and again in 1953. Interestingly today at low tide, remnants of a relatively large, wooden-planked boat, partially buried in silt, become visible in the tidal wetlands, proximate to the submarine chasers location. Could this be SC182 or her sister boat SC43? Perhaps. While this may never be confirmed, it is certain SC182, and possibly SC43, spent some of their last days here.
More information about WW1 submarine chasers can be found in the book, Hunters of the Steel Shark: The Submarine Chasers of WW1 by Todd A. Woofenden.
James Garside appreciates local history. When a friend showed him an undated photograph of two US Navy boats taken locally, he was intrigued and wanted to identify and learn more about them. This article is the result of his research. It was originally published in the August 2023, Points East magazine.
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