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USS Yankee

Find information on this shipwreck and dive site managed by the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources (BUAR).

BUAR classifies certain shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological resources as "Exempted Sites" for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to): commonly known location, previous salvage, recreational value, educational value, or lack of significant archaeological or historical value. Recreational diving activities on these sites, including casual artifact collection, do not require a BUAR permit. However, any major disruption of the site is prohibited. The intent of creating an exempted shipwreck site is to preserve such sites for the continued enjoyment of the recreational diving community, who is encouraged to protect these sites for the continued enjoyment of all.

Note: All dives are conducted at your own risk. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts accepts no responsibility for loss of any kind, including personal injury or property damage. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts assumes no liability for inaccuracies in dive information contained in these pages including site locations and dive conditions.

Vessel Details

Description: auxiliary cruiser, iron.
Dimensions: length 406.1 ft., width 48.4 ft., draft 21.08 ft.
Tonnage: gross, other displacement - 6,225.
Propulsion: steam, propeller.
Machinery: 3 cylinder triple expansion engine, cylinder diameters measuring 32", 52", 84" with a stroke of 54"; 3 coal fired boilers.
Cargo: Not Applicable.

The Shipwreck

Date Sunk: December 5, 1908.
Cause: foundered.
Location: Buzzard's Bay, 3 miles east of Round Hill Point.
Coordinates: latitude 41° 32' 30" N; longitude 70° 52' 40" W.
Loran: 14205.6 and 43975.9.

On June 15, 1908 the auxiliary cruiser USS Yankee, a veteran of the Spanish American War, was recommissioned into the United States Navy as a training ship. The summer of that year was spent cruising between Boston and Chesapeake Bay with either Naval Academy midshipmen or naval militia reservists learning the rigors of shipboard life.

On September 23rd, while on one such training excursion the Yankee encountered a dense fog, compounded by smoke from nearby forest fires in Buzzards Bay. With obscured visibility, Yankee ran aground on Spindle Rock near Westport. Grounding at high tide its bow was held fast in the ledges rocky embrace while its stern was partially submerged.

After failed attempts by the Navy to patch Yankee's hull with 1,000 bags of cement, an $85,000 salvage contract was awarded to Mr. John Arbuckle and Mr. W.W. Weatherspoon. Salvage work commenced in October, when Weatherspoon proved that sunken hulks could be raised with compressed air. After Yankee's guns were removed to lighten the ship and divers patched the hull, water was driven out using air compressors. The warship was refloated on December 4, but the strain of those months on the ledge had weakened the steamer's hull. On December 5th, heavy seas caused Yankee to founder while in tow to New Bedford.

Dive Site Conditions

Depth in feet: maximum 55.
Visibility in feet: average 5.

Large pieces of Yankee's hull cover a wide area of the bottom. An anchor hawse pipe identifies the bow while the vessel's rudderpost denotes the stern. Although most of the debris has a low profile, some sections rise ten feet off the bottom. Swift currents, low visibility and jagged metal can make this wreck hazardous.

Historical Background

Constructed: in 1892, at Newport News, Virginia by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.
Construction details: 2 iron decks and a hurricane deck; houses on deck; 5 bulkheads; bark rigged.
Crew: 600; Master: Commander Charles C. Marsh (1908); Comdr. G.P. Colvocoressee (1903-06); Comdr. Willard H. Brownson (1898-99); J.W. Hawthorne (1892-98).
Owners: United States Navy.
Home or Hailing Port: Boston, Massachusetts.
Former Name(s) and date(s): El Norte (1892-1898).
Official number: 136316 (El Norte). Country: U.S.A.
Other Comments: Formerly the Southern Pacific Company, passenger liner El Norte. After the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and Spain, the Navy acquired El Norte on April 6, 1898. Renamed Yankee it was fitted with (10) 5-inch guns, (6) 6 pounders and 2 Colt machine guns. On April 14, 1898, Yankee was commissioned at New York, as an auxiliary cruiser. It patrolled the East Coast of the United States between Block Island and Cape Henlopen until May 27th. On May 29th Yankee put to sea with orders to join the fleet off Cuba. On June 6th it dueled shore batteries off Santiago. On the 7th it participated in a cable cutting incursion at Guantanamo Bay. In company of the USS Marblehead, Yankee engaged two Spanish gunboats Alvarado and Sandoval, putting them to flight. While USS St. Louis cut the cables. Yankee and Marblehead then turned their fire toward shore silencing the fort at Caimanera. On June 13thYankee engaged the Spanish gunboats Diego Velazquez and Lince, putting them both to flight. It also engaged the Sanbanilla Shore Battery before returning to blockade duty off Cienfuegos. Between June 13th and July 17th, Yankee performed blockade duty, inspected vessels for contraband and returned to the U.S. to load ammunition for the fleet off Cuba. Following the cessation of hostilities, Yankee was decommissioned at League Island, Pennsylvania on March 16, 1899. Recommissioned May 1, 1903, Yankee served as a training vessel. Between January of 1905 and August 1906 Yankee supported US forces ashore at Santo Domingo, Cuba before it was decommissioned at Portsmouth, NH on September 25, 1906. By this time it had been reclassified as a transport. Recommissioned June 15, 1908, Yankee resumed its role as a training ship until its demise.


While aground on Spindle Rock, the cruiser's guns were removed. Some salvage was undertaken from December 5, 1908, to September 1920 when the vessel was dynamited as a hazard to navigation.


Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships; Navy Dept.
Fishable Wrecks and Rockpiles; Coleman & Soares, 1989
New England's Legacy of Shipwrecks; Keatts, 1988
The Record, "American Lloyds", American Bureau of Shipping, 1898

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