In May, we posted about the discovery of a rare Howell torpedo by Navy dolphins in the Pacific off San Diego. The Howell torpedo was the first self-propelled torpedo in United States Navy service. Only fifty were built and, until the recent discovery, only one was known to have survived. The newly discovered torpedo was marked, “U.S.N. No. 24.” But which ship fired the torpedo?
Mikala Pyrch, a George Washington University intern with Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archeology Branch, successfully matched the ship to the torpedo.
“We started looking through SECNAV (Secretary of the Navy) reports and narrowed it down to eight ships which had been outfitted with Howell Torpedoes, “said Pyrch. ”From there we figured which ships had gone through the Pacific Fleet or spent any time in California along the coast. That narrowed it down the USS Marblehead and the USS Iowa. We went to the National Archives and looked in the deck logs. I saw that in December of 1899 Iowa had been doing target practice with the torpedoes and had lost… Howell No. 24.
“I never expected to become a private investigator,” she explained. “I didn’t ever think that we would find conclusive evidence, I thought we would have a best guess. To see Howell 24, lost on this day, at this time – it was pretty exciting.”