Discovery of the USCGC McCulloch

June 2017

During a joint NOAA - US Coast Guard remotely operated vehicle training mission in October 2016, we confirmed the historic remains of the USCG Cutter McCulloch off Point Conception, known as the "Cape Horn of the Pacific."


2016. Researchers glimpse the first images of what could be a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter lying on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

A joint team from NOAA and the United States Coast Guard on a shipwreck ROV survey training mission are hoping to identify what could solve a century-old mystery.

The target: US Coast Guard Cutter McCulloch.

McCulloch, named in honor of the 27th Secretary of Treasury, under the command of Captain John Cantwell, had a crew of 90 Coast Guard and Navy personnel.

Some of the crew were veterans of the Spanish-American War.

The cutter was en route to Mare Island, to be outfitted with larger guns to support its World War One patrol duties.

But war would not spell the end for McCulloch.

On a foggy morning on June 13, 1917, while the ship was en route from San Pedro to Mare Island, California, McCulloch collided with the Pacific Steamship Company passenger steamer USS Governor.

Commanded by Captain Howard Thomas, Governor and its passengers and crew of 429 would mortally wound McCulloch.

Fortunately, all of the crew were safely taken aboard Governor, but McCulloch would be sent to the bottom 30 minutes after the devastating collision.

Until now, the wreck of McCulloch has remained dormant on the bottom of the sea.

Using remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, NOAA and Coast Guard researchers scan the bottom of the Pacific near Point Conception, California in search of McCulloch.

The images sent back from the ROV reveal a power plant: a single triple-expansion steam engine resting quietly in the hole of the ship, and is now habitat to a variety of fish species.

At the flying bridge, a non-ferrous metal helm, its wooden handles succumbed to wood-boring organisms.

And on the bow of the ship, after a century at the bottom of the Pacific, the 6-pounder guns of McCulloch are revealed to investigators.

After the wreck was confirmed to be that of McCulloch, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Halibut and search and rescue helicopter Dolphin 6570 pay tribute over the shipwreck's remains.

As a result of this collaborative effort between the Coast Guard and NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the discovery of McCulloch helps close an important chapter in Coast Guard and Navy history while honoring the ship's service and crew.