The Papoose is a 412 foot long tanker that is in 120 feet of water with the highest part rising to about 90 feet. About 36 miles south of the Beaufort Inlet, it usually takes about 2 hours to reach this dive site after leaving the inlet. The wreck lies upside down with most of the stern section intact. Some of the hull plates are missing which allows the divers to look into the ship. There is a break amidships that leads to a debris field and onto the remains of the bridge. The rudder is still in place, but the 18-foot propeller has been salvaged.
During the summer, the water temperature ranges from the upper 70's to the low 80's. Visibility averages 60 feet but can get up over a 100 feet. The Atlantic Sand Tiger shark can be seen here in the spring and fall. Large schools of amberjack can be seen swimming around the wreck also. Sea bass and tropical fish, such as the Queen Angel can also be seen regularly.
The Papoose was a ship that rose from the flames. Her original name was the Silvanus. As the Silvanus, she was traveling the Mississippi River when she rammed her bow into another ship, causing her deck plates to buckle and igniting her cargo of benzene. The fire and explosions caused her to be ruled a total loss. The burned out remains were towed to Beaumont, Texas to be refitted. Even though the engine and boilers were undamaged, they were overhauled as the refitting was occurring.
After 300 workers had labored for five months, the ship was ready to go to sea again. She was rechristened the Papoose on March 31, 1927. She continued life as a tanker making runs between Galveston and New York carrying gasoline. On the night of March 18, 1942, the Papoose was heading south from Providence, Rhode Island to Corpus Christi, Texas to pick up another cargo of crude oil. Since she was empty, Captain Raymond Zalnick was able to keep the Papoose closer to shore. The Papoose was completely blacked out to hide from patrolling U-Boats. There was a northwest wind and the seas were moderately rough and the Papoose was not running a zig-zag course.
At 10:30 p.m., a torpedo from the U-124 slammed into the port side of the ship rupturing the fuel tank. Oil and water poured into the fire and engine rooms. In four minutes, they were flooded to the top of the cylinder heads of the engines. Captain Zalnick gave the order to head for shore, but without the engines, the ship became a sitting duck. The radioman sent out a distress call, which was answered, and then the crew abandoned ship. As part of the crew was rowing away from the ship in the No. 3 lifeboat, a second torpedo passed close to them but continued on to hit the Papoose on the starboard side, almost directly across from the first impact. The impact caused the No. 1 lifeboat to foul on the way down. Captain Zalnick ordered the bow of the lifeboat lowered to the water and the stern cut loose. Some of the crew was injured by falling debris. The next morning, the USS Stringham picked up the 34 men in the two lifeboats. Two of the crew died when the initial torpedo struck and flooded the engine room.