Laguna Beach, California – Through a combined side scan sonar search and ROV and diver inspection, Endurance ME has located and identified the fishing vessel NEW SATURNIA, lost on November 14th, 1955 off Laguna Beach, CA.
Construction and Early Years
The NEW SATURNIA was built in 1936 by the Western Boatbuilding Corporation of Tacoma, Washington. She was an 82 foot long, 77 gross ton fishing seiner built for the Conte Family of Monterey, CA. Frank Conte recalled fishing for sardines with the older men of his family as a boy. Frank Tardio was listed as the boat owner 1939-40 fishing season. He fished for Hovden Food Products Corporation ranked 38th in 1937-38 fishing season at 1132 tons.
Lost in Heavy Seas
The NEW SATURNIA continued her life as a fishing seiner throughout WWII and afterwards. On November 14th, 1955 the vessel was returning to Fish Harbor, San Pedro with a full hold of sardines when she encountered heavy seas and foundered two miles off Laguna Beach. All 11 crewmembers on board were rescued by another boat and returned to San Pedro. The exact location of NEW SATURNIA was not known and she was never salvaged.
Multibeam and Side Scan Sonar Search
In the spring of 2017, Endurance ME was reanalyzing publicly available multibeam sonar and located several targets of interest. One in particular showed as a “rise” on the seabed, but it was far larger than previously located targets. The location was in around 140ft of water. It was given a site number of 046-A and assigned to the priority list for a future side scan survey.
On May 27th, Endurance ME made a pass with its DeepVision 680D side scan sonar and imaged a target that was clearly man made and had a number of right angles that looked like fuel tanks or diesel engines. The wreckage appeared to be between 60-80ft when measured using the side scan software.
After realizing this was a missing ship, the list of known missing vessels was pulled up from the California State Lands Commission and analysis was conducted to narrow down to a list of possibilities. The vessels NEW REX, JOHNNIE BOY, LA PALOMA, PACIFIC STAR and YANKEE BOY, and NEW SATURNIA were regarded as possible identities.
Surveying the Wreck
On June 4th, 2017 a combined Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and diver survey by Mr. Steve Lawson was conducted on the wreck site. Although wreck material was observed by the ROV pilot, Adam Simko, visibility was not the best and made identification difficult.
Mr. Lawson returned to the wreck on August 19th and continued to survey the wreck. He determined that the southernmost part of the wreck is the bow. Immediately aft of the bow is the massive engine surround by several large tanks. The propeller shaft with three bladed propeller and rudder composed of what remained of the stern. As he swam over the wreck, he noted some large flat disks which he recognized to be deck plates or hatches, similar to manhole covers. The plates bore the name “Western Boat Bldg Co. Tacoma.” from the list of possible vessels, only the NEW SATURNIA was constructed by the Western Boat Building Company of Tacoma.
On September 28th, 2017 a subsequent ROV dive was conducted on the wreck and visibility was found to be much better. The video shown below starts at the stern and moves to the central engine and up to the bow.