A 76-year-old mystery was solved on July 4th when divers from the US expedition team RV Explorer identified a recently discovered shipwreck as the remains of the D/S Octavian, a Norwegian Freighter that went missing in 1942.
The wreck, which lies 70 miles off the coast of Cape May, was identified when divers recovered an Engine and Boiler builder’s plaque. Its identity was confirmed by Jorgan Johannassan from the Maritime Museum in Oslo, Norway.
The Octavian was headed from Galveston, Texas to St. John, New Brunswick in Canada when it vanished on Jan. 17, 1942, leaving 16 Norwegian crew members and one Canadian crew member presumed dead.
For years, historians believed that the ship was sunk by the German submarine U-203. They cited the U-203 deck logs, which indicated that an unidentified ship was sunk on Jan.17, 1942 off of Nova Scotia.
The location, however, does not make sense for the ship's path. Nova Scotia is north of St. Johns, New Brunswick and the Octavian would have had no reason to veer from its course, officials from the Cape May Research Vessel Explorer said.
Once the remains of the ship were identified, officials concluded that the Octavian was instead sunk by the German submarine U-123. The deck logs of the submarine indicated that it sunk an unidentified freight ship in the location of the Octavian on Jan. 17, 1942, before going to Cape Hetteras where it demolished four more ships and damaged a fifth.
Officials hope the identification of the ship will help bring closure to the families of the sailors.