Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Underwater Genealogy

Think your relatives are hard to find? Bruce Abele and his brothers have been trying to track down the resting place of their father, Mannert Abele, for years. The elder Abele was commander of the U.S.S. Grunion, which disappeared while on patrol off the Aleutian Islands and was officially declared lost 64 years ago this week.

Four years ago, a man who had heard about the Grunion's disappearance e-mailed Bruce the links to several Grunion Web sites.

One site held an entirely new clue, a note from a Japanese model ship builder who said he thought he knew what had happened to the Grunion.

John Abele contacted the man, Yutaka Iwasaki, who translated and sent him a report written in the 1960s by a Japanese military officer who served in the Aleutians. A maritime magazine had recently reprinted the report.

It described a confrontation between a U.S. submarine and the officer's freighter, the Kano Maru, on July 31, 1942, about 10 miles northeast of Kiska — the Grunion's patrol area.
The Abeles hired a marine survey firm to scan the ocean floor this summer.
In mid-August, the sonar picked up a 290-foot-long object with the sharp angles and jutting shadows of something man-made wedged into a terrace on the steep underwater slope of the volcano. [Link, via Boing Boing]
The brothers are reluctant to say they've found their father, but are sending down a remote-controlled underwater camera next summer to take a closer look at the vessel.

The Abeles are not alone in their search, and maintain a blog to keep other Grunion family members apprised of their progress.

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