Ashkhabad prior to final destruction by Semmes and St. Zeno (Gentile)
The Ashkhabad was traveling "in ballast" from NY to Cuba being escorted by the ASW trawler Lady Elsa. They were runnig zig-zag course as ordered. The tanker was hit on the starboard side by a single torpedo and sunk by its stern end in the shallow water off Cape Lookout. The ship was abandoned for a later salvage attempt and all the crew were taken to Morehead City, NC by the Lady Elsa. Several days later, the destroyer USS Semmes DD-189, not aware of the intent to salvage and given standing orders to "sink wrecks that might be a menace to navigation" , fired three shells into the Ashkhabad. Another armed trawler, HMS St. Zeno joined in the shelling and completed the destruction. The salvage ship/tug ReliefSP-2170 arrived on the scene to find nothing left to save. The wreck was reduced even further later in the war and post-war.
Destroyer Semmes, pictured here in 1945, finished the job started by the U-402.... (8)
...leaving nothing for the salvage tug Relief (circa 1907) to salvage(6)
* ***** DIVE NOTES ***** */>
Diving Depths: 55 ft.
Current: I have been on the wreck several times now over the years and never had any current to speak of. I suspect that given its position on the tip of the shoals that I have been lucky or else the current is very predictable and the captains only go there in with the right conditions.
Visibility: I have had 50+ ft of viz and 10 ft of viz. Again, its position should make the visibility highly variable.
Summer Temperature: high 70s
Points of Interest: A large 4-bladed propeller on the port side (bow section) of the wreck and two large main boilers (amidships) and larger third boiler lying on its end, somewhat separated from the others, on the port side (amidships).
Fish/Animal Life: The usual array of NC marine life - amberjacks, stingrays, grouper, barracuda etc. I also noticed an interesting variety of macro life.
Description: What is left of the Ashkhabad is very broken-up and scattered about. I guess this is to be expected given the multiple times it was "knocked down" by the allies during the war to minimize the hazard to navigation. I suspect given its position on the shoals the parts of the flattened wreck that are visible to a diver can come and go with the shifting sands. Little remains that is recognizable as part of an intact ship. It is mostly a pile of flattened hull plates and structural support members. The "bow section" of the wreck seems to cover the larger area and is separated from the boilers by a stretch or gap of sand on the port side. On the starboard side, the remains of the ribbing provides a continuous connection. There seems to be a pile of anchor chain at the bow end. Little wreckage remains aft of the boilers. One or two connecting rods directly aft of the boilers seem to be all that is left of the engine. There is no sign of the stern rudder, propeller or shaft alley. Given the scattered nature of the remains, this wreck can be hard to navigate in low visibility. In good viz, it is quite easy and can be easily circumnavigated during a single dive. In fact, it appears to me that much of the ship must be buried under the sand as the wreck area overs far less than one would expect from a 400 foot vessel.
* ***** PHOTOS & VIDEOS ***** */>
PHOTOS & VIDEO:
Dive tour from the boilers to the bow
Bollards, starboard bow
Close up of spare propeller hub
Bollard, port side
Mostly low relief, it doesn't take much sand movement to cover or uncover the Ashkhabad
Ashkhabad bell recovered by Mike Sheen [photo: Mike Sheen (27)]