OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. (WTNH) — A maritime mystery dating back almost 80 years has now been solved. An experimental submarine sank in Long Island Sound in 1946. Now, some local divers say they have finally found the wreck of The Defender.
Under the calm surface of Long Island Sound, there are still mysteries, and divers like Richard Simon of Shoreline Diving love finding them.
“As a kid, I grew up diving in Long Island Sound,” Simon said. “As a diver, it was one of those myths, ‘Hey, there’s a submarine lost in Long Island Sound.'”
Everyone knows about Electric Boat, but more than a hundred years ago, there was another submarine maker. An inventor in Milford named Simon Lake built a prototype called “The Defender.”
“So, in 1907, he built the submarine Defender to sell it to the Navy,” Simon said. “You know, it has wheels, it can drive on the bottom, you can launch divers from it. Pretty revolutionary for its time. And the Navy said, this is a little too new for us.”
With no luck, Simon Lake tried for years to get the government interested in his submarine. So, the Defender hung around the Connecticut shoreline for decades, getting less and less seaworthy until it sank for good in 1946 somewhere off the coast of Old Saybrook. Some say it was being towed when it sank, and some say it was scuttled on purpose, but nobody knew exactly where it was until Rick and his friends started looking.
For two years, they narrowed it down with charts and sonar until they thought they found something the right size and shape. But it was in deep water.
“It’s in a spot that’s tidal, so you only have about a 45-minute time window when you can actually dive the wreck,” Simon said.
On Sunday, they got down at the right time and found what they were looking for. The size, shape, and age all match The Defender. It was the first of many dives he and his crew would do.
“This is kind of a treasure for all of us. We are the submarine capital, if you will, of the world. We have Electric Boat, we have the Navy base,” said Simon. “There’s so much history here with submarines that it’s really an important state of our state history.”
Simon said he would make the exact location public once he’s done documenting the wreck for history.