Freighter Alcoa Puritan, 1941
Photo from Steamship Historical Society of America Collection, University of
In May of 1942 the freighter
Alcoa Puritan, a 6,795-ton cargo ship owned by the Alcoa Steam Ship Co.,
was en route from Port of Spain, Trinidad, to Mobile, Alabama, with a cargo
of bauxite and seven passengers. The passengers were all survivors of a
tanker torpedoed by a U-boat off the coast of Brazil. On May 6, 1942, the
Alcoa Puritan came into the sights of U-507, approximately a
hundred and thirty miles south of Mobile, Alabama. Just before noon, a
torpedo streaked through the water and barely missed the freighter's stern.
The captain turned his vessel to present as small a target as possible to
the U-boat then order full speed ahead as he attempted to outrun the
submarine. U-507 surfaced and pursued the fleeing ship at top
speed. As the U-507 overtook the slower freighter, the U-boat crew
opened fire with their deck guns, scoring about fifty hits and disabling
Alcoa Puritan’s steering. The captain brought the crippled freighter to
a stop and gave orders to abandon ship. After allowing the crew leave the
stricken freighter, the U-507 sank Alcoa Puritan with a single
torpedo. The crew and passengers of the freighter survived and were rescued
four hours later by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwel.
A sidescan image of Alcoa Puritan. The ship's hatches, cargo
derricks and superstructure are clearly visible.
In May 2001, a vessel thought to be Alcoa Puritan was discovered in
6,400 feet of water during a deep-tow survey for
Shell International. In February
2002, C&C conducted an investigation survey of the vessel using the HUGIN
3000 AUV. The high-resolution data left little doubt it was the Alcoa
Puritan. In June 2002, Shell sponsored an ROV investigation of the
shipwreck and brought back the first video images that confirmed this vessel
was Alcoa Puritan.