A Fortunate Find
In its nearly 30 years at sea, the steamship City of Everett survived fires and collisions. The first American steamship to circle the globe, it carried food to a famine-stricken India. Then came the storm in the Gulf of Mexico. "Am lowering boats," the radio operator announced late on Oct. 11, 1923. "Will sink soon." The 346-foot freighter issued one more S.O.S. before the radio fell silent. "That was the last anybody heard of the ship or her crew," said underwater explorer Michael C. Barnette. "For nearly 90 years, nobody knew what happened to those 26 men."
Jay Travis and Brian Beukema live to fish.
"We think nothing of running 250 miles offshore," said Travis, who lives in Bradenton. "We fish all the local tournaments. We love the deep water."
A few years ago, the pair and some friends found themselves about 150 miles due west of Naples. Like any serious anglers, they know that the farther out you go, the larger the fish.
"We catch big amberjack, grouper, you name it," said Travis.
In one area thought to be the site of several shipwrecks, their electronic depth finder registered a large object on the ocean floor.
"It was too big to be a school of bait," Travis said. "We knew it had to be something man-made."
Travis marked the location and returned several times. Eventually, his curiosity overwhelmed his reluctance to reveal a favorite fishing spot.
"I heard about (Barnette) and his shipwreck work," Travis recalled. "So I figured I would give him a try."
After a few e-mails and phone calls, Travis and Barnette agreed to meet, though the angler wasn't exactly forthcoming at first.
"It was the classic 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours,'" Barnette recalled. "But after a refreshment, we decided to go check it out."
Barnette, a St. Petersburg marine biologist, and his diving partner, Joe Citelli, an auto supply store owner from Fort Lauderdale, are not professional scuba divers, but they venture far beyond the realm of most recreational divers. They use high-tech equipment- custom-made "rebreathers" that circulate and "scrub" the gas mixture they breathe- instead of the multiple tanks of compressed gas favored by most divers.
The men dive to depths of 400 feet or more, where the air we breathe every day, a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen, is deadly. The pressure at the depth, more than 10 times than on the surface, makes the nitrogen narcotic and the oxygen toxic. So technical divers like Barnette and Citelli mix in helium to dilute the negative effects of too much nitrogen and oxygen.
"It is not a casual sport," said Barnette, who has explored such famous shipwrecks as the Civil War ironclad Monitor, the Italian passenger liner Andrea Doria, the battleship USS Virginia and the Britannic, the sister ship of the Titanic. "It takes a lot of time and preparation. Needless to say, it is not for everybody."
When you're 150 miles from land, there is no easy solution if something goes wrong. So Barnette and Citelli always travel with extra dive equipment, plus safety gear recommended for any offshore expedition, including a life raft and an emergency position indicating radio beacon.
"You have to have everything in order because at the depths we dive there is no room for error," Citelli said.
"But there is no reason to be anxious as long as you have done your homework. After a while, you also develop that little voice that tells you when something isn't right. When you hear it, you don't dive."
As the nation recovered from the Civil War, demand was high for faster, better ways to move people and goods.
Alexander McDougall, a captain on the Great Lakes, dreamed of a commercial vessel that could carry a heavy load and cut through the water with minimum resistance. In 1872, he designed an oceangoing ship that looked a little like a fine cigar.
Some thought the fully laden hull resembled the body of a whale, which is why the ship was called a "whaleback." The shipping industry never embraced the radical design, so McDougall formed his own company and built 24 barges and 16 steamers, all whalebacks.
The City of Everett, launched in the fall of 1894, measured 346 feet long and 42 feet wide. The ship, named for the then newly incorporated Washington port city, worked the Pacific Northwest for a few years, hauling freight such as coal. Then in 1897, laden with a hold full of corn, it steamed off to India, which was suffering through a major famine.
Load deposited, the ship headed to Spain with a cargo of jute via the Suez Canal, and then back to the United States, becoming the first American steamship to circle the globe.
In the years that followed, the City of Everett suffered its share of misfortune, including collisions at sea and a fire in port. The ship was repaired, refurbished and put back into action hauling molasses from Santiago, Cuba, to New Orleans.
On the morning of Oct. 11, 1923, the whaleback steamer foundered in a storm. It signaled its position, "latitude 24:30 north, longitude 86 west," and then disappeared without a trace.
Nearly 87 years later, on Sept. 10, Barnette and Citelli joined Travis and his crew aboard a 29-foot boat and left Bradenton for a 12-hour ride to find what would turn out to be the final resting place of City of Everett.
The sea was flat and the sky was clear as Barnette and Citelli prepared to dive to the location Travis and Beukema had found, due west of Naples.
The men were about 20 miles from the final position that the City of Everett had signaled. Barnette already suspected what they would come upon.
"It's not unusual to give the wrong location in the middle of a storm," he said of the ship's desperate last transmission. "The only thing we could do was go take a look."
The divers had to go down 400 feet. To allow time for decompression, they would have only 20 minutes to travel to the wreck and gather as much information as possible.
With visibility of 100 feet, the men could quickly assess the situation.
"The ship was virtually intact and it looked like it went down stern first," Barnette said. "And it was obvious that it was a whaleback steamer."
Back on the surface, they talked about their dive and the unusual hull they saw in the darkness below.
"There is no doubt in my mind that we found the City of Everett," Barnette said. "It was quite a remarkable find."
Citelli, a veteran of dozens of wrecks, found this experience particularly moving.
"There are people alive who could have had a grandfather on that ship," he said. "For years, people have wondered what happened to those men. Now, for 26 families, the mystery is solved."
From the St. Petersburg Times, submitted by Robert Marx, Bristol, VA.
Colorado Visitor Finds 8.66-Carat White Diamond
Many dream of finding a big diamond site and the recent 8.66-carat diamond find by Beth Gilbertson of Salida, Colorado, proves that dreams can still come true. According to Park Superintendent Justin Dorsey, "Large diamonds continue to be found here at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Weighing 8.66-carats, this absolutely beautiful white diamond is the third largest diamond of the 27,000 diamonds found by park visitors since the Crater of Diamonds became an Arkansas state park in 1972." He said, "Ms. Gilbertson's diamond is only topped in size by the 16.37-carat Amarillo Starlight found in 1975 by park visitor W.W. Johnson of Amarillo, Texas, and the 8.82-carat Star of Shreveport found by Carroll Blankenship of Shreveport, Louisiana, in June 1981." Dorsey said, "It has been almost 30 years since we've seen a diamond of this size found at the park. And, we are all so happy for Ms. Gilbertson."
After seeing The Travel Channel's "The Best Places to Find Cash and Treasures" which includes a segment on the Crater of Diamonds, Gilbertson became a regular visitor at the park. Recently, she was scraping gravel out of a drainage ditch on the Beatty's Hill portion of the park's 37-1/2 acre search area and discovered the diamond while wet sifting buckets of dirt at the north washing pavilion while also helping two other visitors learn how to search. Thrilled that her efforts paid off in such a big way, Gilbertson said, "I'd collected four buckets of dirt for me to search and two for the other visitors. The diamond ended up being in one of my buckets." She said, "I've found other diamonds at the park, but when I first noticed this one, I couldn't quite believe that something that large could be a real diamond. I thought it was a piece of glass. So, I asked another visitor, this is a diamond, right?" Gilbertson continued, "I felt sure it was a diamond, but yet couldn't quite believe it." Because of this, she named her gem the Illusion Diamond. "I've worked very hard searching for diamonds. But recently while helping other visitors learn how to search, and searching in an area where I don't normally work, the diamond showed up. The illusion materialized," she said.
According to Park Interpreter Waymon Cox, "The diamond is jaw-dropping. It's icy white with a metallic luster. And, it's a flat trapezoidal crystal the size of a nickel." It is the 196th diamond find at the park this year.
Cox said that when Gilbertson brought the diamond to the park's Diamond Discovery Center, where diamonds are weighted and certified by park staff, she smiled and said to him, "Hold out your hand. You won't need a microscope to see this one." And, Cox could hear the weight of the diamond hitting the sides of the plastic container she'd placed it in. Gilbertson guessed it would weigh four carats. The park staff estimated seven. "Then, we weighed it and it turned out to be 8.66 carats!" said Cox. He continued, "Here at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, our history is always changing. Now, we have a new third largest diamond find by a park visitor." Cox emphasized, "A large and unexpected diamond can appear here. It's what makes this park so unique, and it's what keeps people coming here."
The search area at the Crater of Diamonds State Park is a 37-1/2 acre plowed field, the eroded surface of the eighth largest diamond-bearing deposit in the world in surface area. It is the world's only diamond-producing site open to the public. On average, two diamonds are found each day at the park. The park's policy is finders-keepers. What park visitors find is theirs to keep. The park staff provides free identification and certification of diamonds. Park interpretive programs and exhibits explain the site's geology and history and offer tips on recognizing diamonds in the rough.
Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow. The colors found at the Crater of Diamonds are white, brown and yellow, in that order. Other semi-precious gems and minerals found in the park's search area include amethyst, garnet, peridot, jasper, agate, calcite, barite, and quartz. Over 40 different rocks and minerals are unearthed at the Crater making it a rock hound's delight. In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at Arkansas's diamond site since the first diamonds found in 1906 by John Huddleston, the farmer who at that time owned the land, long before the site became an Arkansas state park. The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats. Other large notable finds from the Crater include the Star of Murfreesboro (34.25 carats) and the Star of Arkansas (15.33 carats).
Another notable diamond from the Crater of Diamonds that has received much national attention is the 1.09-carat D-flawless Strawn-Wagner Diamond. Discovered in 1990 by Shirley Strawn of nearby Murfreesboro, this white gem weighed 3.03 carats in the rough before being cut to perfection in 1997 by the renowned diamond firm Lazare Kaplan International of New York. The gem is the most perfect diamond ever certified in the laboratory of the American Gem Society. The diamond is on display in a special exhibit in the Crater of Diamonds State Park visitor center.
Another gem from the Crater is the flawless 4.25-carat Kahn Canary diamond that was discovered at the park in 1977. This uncut, triangular-shape gem has been on exhibit at many cities around the U.S. and overseas. It was featured in an illustrious jewelry exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium in 1997 that included precious stones from throughout the world including the Kremlin collection, the Vatican, Cartier and Christies. And, in late 1997, the Kahn Canary was featured in another prestigious exhibition at the American Museum of National History in New York entitled "The Nature of Diamonds." Former First Lady Hillary Clinton borrowed the Kahn Canary from its owner, Stan Kahn of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and wore it in a special, Arkansas-inspired ring setting designed by Henry Dunay of New York. Mrs. Clinton chose to wear the gem as a special way to represent Arkansas's diamond site at the galas celebrating both of Bill Clinton's presidential inaugurals.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is located on Ark. 301 at Murfreesboro. It is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
For more information, contact: Waymon Cox, park interpreter, Crater of Diamonds State Park, 209 State Park Road, Murfreesboro, AR 71958, phone: 870-285-3113.
From the AP, submitted by numerous readers.
Safes, Cash Wash Ashore After Tsunami
There are no cars inside the parking garage at Ofunato police headquarters. Instead, hundreds of dented metal safes, swept out of homes and businesses by Japan's tsunami, crowd the long rectangular building.
Any one could hold someone's life savings.
Safes are washing up along the tsunami-battered coast, and police are trying to find their owners- a unique problem in a country where many people, especially the elderly, still stash their cash at home. By one estimate, some $350 billion worth of yen doesn't circulate.
There's even a term for this hidden money in Japanese, "tansu yokin." Or literally, "wardrobe savings."
So the massive post-tsunami cleanup under way along hundreds of miles of Japan's ravaged northeastern coast involves the delicate business of separating junk from valuables. As workers and residents pick through the wreckage, they are increasingly stumbling upon cash and locked safes.
From The Chicago Daily Herald, submitted by Willard R. Smith III, Naperville, IL.