SHIP NOTES: (Gentile)
Name: PROTEUS Type: Passenger/Freighter
Date Sunk: 8/19/1918 Cause: Collision with tanker SS Cushing
Size (ft.): 390 x 48 x 29 Tonnage: 4836 tons
Propulsion: Coal-fired steam Location N34° 45.918'/W75° 47.010'

The Proteus was built for the Cromwell Line to work the passenger-freight service between New York, NY and New Orleans, LA. It was the sister ship of the Comus and launched one month, June 1900, after her. It was considered very modern for its time. It was rigged with both sails (schooner rigged with 2 masts) and a triple-expansion steam engine and could make 17 knots. With its speed, the Proteus traveled its intended service route in approximately five days - faster than the competing rail service of the day. It could carry approximately 250 passengers and was outfitted with toilets and bathrooms in each cabin. The passenger cabins were also fitted with portholes and heaters and were considered well-ventilated, well-lit and well heated for the standard of the day. Many were above the hull. It had four cargo decks forward and one aft. The first captain of the Proteus was Edwin V. Gager who had also served as an officer on the ironclad Monitor after its hostoric battle with the Virginia.
SS Proteus
1914-10-28: The Proteus lost its propeller in the Gulf of Mexico and had to be towed to New Orleans, LA by the El Oriente
1916-01-26: The Proteus had a minor collision off of Quarantine, NY with the Brabant
1917-11-13: The Proteus ran aground at the mouth of the Mississippi River and was towed off by the Corona and the W.A. Bisso
1918-06-05: The Proteus rescued the crew of the Eidsvold after it was stopped, allowed to abandon ship and sunk by the U-151
The El Oriente towed the Proteus when it lost its propeller. The Eidsvold as the Frutera. The Proteus picked up its passengers when the Eidsvold was sunk by the U-151.
1918-08-18: Word War One was winding down and in its last months (Armistice Day, Nov 11, 1918) and the Proteus was heading north, four days into its voyage from New Orleans, LA to New York, NY. There were 95 persons aboard - 12 passengers and 83 crew. Per the wartime anti-submarine regulations, it was running blacked-out with all navigation lights off. The Standard Oil tanker Cushing was "in ballast" (empty except for ballast) and heading south from New York to Beaumont, TX. In addition to running lights-out, like the Proteus, the Cushing was also painted in a camouflage pattern to further its protection from prowling u-boats.
Around midnight and unaware of each others location, the two ships met, with the Cushing hitting the Proteus amidships, on the starboard side. Captain of the Proteus, Harry T. Boyd, immediately recognized his ship was fatally wounded and gave the order to abandon ship. One crew member jumped over the side in a panic and drowned, but the remaining 94 people on board successfully abandoned ship and were recovered by the Cushing. The final insured value placed on the lost Proteus was $1.225M. The Cushing went on to continue its service for another 24 years, under several different names, but was sunk off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico by the U-129 on June 27, 1942. She was named the Tuxpam at the time of her sinking.
SS Proteus at dock, bow and stern views
Cushing, later in her career, as the Chinampa

Diving Depths: 110-120 ft.
Current: Slight to un-diveable; generally runs from the port to starboard side of the wreck and slightly down from the bow.
Visibility: Generally greater than 60 feet
Summer Temperature: mid to high 70s
Points of Interest: Three main boilers plus a small auxiliary boiler, propeller, spare propeller, visually stunning and intact stern and somewhat intact bow with old-style port anchor and windlass. The stern section has continually collapsed over time with the final blow occurring in 2012
Fish/Animal Life: The Proteus seems to frequented by large stingrays and their attendant groups of cobia. In more recent years, it is known for the large number of sandtigers on both the stern and bow ends of the wreck. There are certain times when the wreck gets covered with green, stringy algae, but that eventually disappears during the season. The fish life on the wreck is one of the best off of NC.
Description:The wreck of the Proteus was discovered "diving wise" in 1983. The wreck is contiguous and thus offers no problems as far as navigation. It is a fairly large wreck, but traveling from bow to stern and back can be done in one dive. In fact, once you find the engine debris, the shaft and shaft alley provide a trail directly back to the stern. The stern offers the highest relief and on a clear day is just stunning. In the past, it rose almost 30 feet off of the the sand and lists to the port side. As of 2012, it has almost completely collapsed on the port side. The entire steering mechanism is intact, from rudder and prop to steering quadrant. Look for the spare propeller toward the starboard side just forward of the high stern section. When first discovered, the Proteus offered a seemingly endless supply of brass artifacts. The square, brass, stained-glass windows were particularly popular and were just lying there for the taking. Now rare, the wreck still offers artifacts for the diligent. The bell was recovered in 2013.

Video tour of the wreck...starting at boilers and traveling along port side around the bow and back to the boilers and engine (HD recommended) Video tour of the wreck...traveling midships along starboard side around the stern, thru the middle and shaft alley and back to the engine (HD recommended)
Copyright © 2016 by Paul M. Hudy
The propeller at the stern - viewing from behind the wreck; Rudder in foreground

The stern and prop, laying on its port side

Sandtiger sharks frequent the wrecksite Diver swims near the shaft alley forward of the stern
Captain Buck looking for artifacts amidships, circa 1995 Auxiliary anchor and windlass, circa 1993
Engine Stern section with prop and rudder, circa 2009
Boilers Rudder...and list of the wreck
Windlass amidships, circa 2009 Steering quadrant collapsed on the sand, circa 2013

Unless otherwise noted, all images, photos, text are Paul M. Hudy © 2016 (

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