The UB88, a German U-Boat from WWI was sunk during an exercise put on by the U.S. Navy for the mayor of Los Angeles, Navy brass and the local press on January 3, 1921.
Its exact location remained a mystery until being discovered by Gary Fabian in 2003. He and his friend Ray Arntz assembled a dive team to document the wreck, then keep its location a secret.
Torrance diver Phil Garner had always been intrigued by anything man-made under water. Whenever he came across debris he wondered how long it had been down and where it came from. In 1989 he read Shipwrecks of Southern California by Patrick Smith and Bonnie Cardone. The chapter describing the WW1 German submarine UB88 fascinated him . Knowing it was out there somewhere sparked an interest for him. A few years later , he met a couple of divers who had been searching unsuccessfully since the 1940s for the sub. Using a fathometer and dragging a hook along the bottom were common techniques, but a time consuming way to look for wrecks. Things are much easier today.
He would have to acquire GIS software to read the survey images found at US Geological Survey.gov
It was fairly easy to learn despite never having used GIS before. He had to create anchors for the files, make layers, convert them to KML files and add them to Google Earth. He overlaid the survey images and found targets everywhere.
The UB88 nose-dived after being shelled and broke ten feet off the bow when it hit bottom. He figured it had to be near that depth or it would have slowed its descent if it were deeper.
He made some educated guesses about which area to look. Open ocean is south of the former Long Beach Naval Shipyard. He drew a line directly south of the old Navy base and followed it until he found a depth between 175 feet and 182 feet, the length of the wreck. There were only a few targets in the area, but one of them was exactly ten miles south in 178 feet.
After two months of waiting for the ocean to calm down, they finally went out to dive the sub on July 10. The sea was flat, but the water was still a bit dirty and green. They set their float on the high spot and anchored nearby. As he dropped, the water became darker. He was about to thumb the dive when a deep shadow appeared to his right. He swam over and was very relieved to see the conning tower.
Twenty years of dreaming about this submarine had come true in just a few weeks of searching and one incredible day of diving.
For more information, see:
as well as Gary Fabian’s website: