Dive vessel discovers submarine off the coast of Maryland, Virginia

A wreck salvage company that owns and operates a dive vessel called D/V Tenacious announced today the discovery of a submarine off the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.

A submarine believed to be R-8 discovered off the Delmarva Peninsula. (Photo: AWS)

The company, Atlantic Wreck Salvage (AWS), says the vessel has yet to be dived and visually identified, but based on side scan sonar data, the location and the historical record, the team firmly believes it to be the wreckage of the R-8 (S.S. 85), an American submarine dispatched by experimental aerial bomb testing in 1936. The R-8 is one of few American submarines resting in diveable East Coast waters that had yet to be located.

The R-8 was one of 27 R-class submarines commissioned by the U.S. Navy during WW1, but was not completed until after the Armistice. 

R-8 transited the Panama Canal, became a part of the Pacific Fleet, and participated in Naval training off the coasts of California and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1923, it sailed west to Pearl Harbor where she participated in training and operations with fleet units for the next eight years.

Historic photo of R-8, a submarine believed to be discovered off the Delmarva Peninsula. (Photo: AWS)

R-8 was called back to the East Coast in 1930 and became part of the Inactive Naval Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia. It sank in the Navy Yard on Feb. 26, 1936, was raised in April, struck from the Navy list in May, and used as a target in an aerial bombing test in August. Four near misses with 100 lb. bombs ultimately sent
it to the bottom of the ocean.

A submarine believed to be R-8 discovered off the Delmarva Peninsula. (Photo: AWS)

A submarine believed to be R-8 discovered off the Delmarva Peninsula. (Photo: AWS)

“The sonar data leaves little doubt that the R-8 has been located,” said world-renown sonar expert Garry Kozak of GK Consulting, who analyzed sonar data with the team. “The submarine in the image is the correct length, width, and height. One set of prominent features of the R-class subs visible in the scan image is the spray rail configuration on the conning tower.”

Shipwreck historian, author, and wreck hunter Captain Eric Takakjian and D/V Tenacious Captain Joe Mazraani have been working on the R-8 Project for many years. In 2020, when AWS acquired side scan sonar capabilities, Mazraani moved D/V Tenacious from her home port in Point Pleasant, New Jersey to Ocean City Sunset Marina in Maryland to conduct searches for R-8’s remains.

“The discovery of any new vessel is exciting,” said Captain Takakjian, who has discovered more than seventy shipwrecks in his career. “It appears from the sonar images that the site will reveal a very well-preserved example of an R-class submarine in existence anywhere. We are looking forward to conducting additional research and to diving the wreck in 2021.”

At this time, the team is not releasing additional information about the depth or the location of the vessel until they can dive the wreckage and make a formal identification. Side Scan Sonar images reveal that the vessel is intact and sits upright on the ocean floor. The images were acquired with a Klein System 3000.