The Sebastopol Operation

Following the fall of Sebastopol and subsequent end of the Crimean War (1854-56), the Russian Czar turned to the outside world to help raise the warships sunk in the harbor. Two American companies responded, one from Massachusetts and another from Pennsylvania. As per the articles below, the Boston Relief and Submarine Company (or simply the Boston Submarine Company) and the Philadelphia Submarine Mining Company enjoyed mixed success in the Crimea. The largest problem was the condition of the lost vessels--some had already been old and worn out when they slipped beneath the waves, and none had benefited from the attention of the teredo worms that bore into their hulls while underwater. While Eakins and Wickersham are mentioned only once (in a November article, written the previous August, 1857) the series of reports gives a good idea of the technology available to divers before the Civil War, as well as the problems they encountered.

New York Herald
March 3, 1857
[From the Boston Traveler, Feb. 28]

Raising of the Russian War Vessels at Sebastopol.

A few years since the combined nations of England and France dispatched to the shores of the Crimean a powerful and warlike expedition to exterminate and destroy. In a month or two an expedition will sail from the shores of this country for the same destination, but unlike the expedition first names, its purpose is to rescue and preserve.

It has been before briefly stated that Mr. John E, Gowen, of Boston, had obtained from the Russian government, the contract to raise from the waters of the harbor of Sebastopol the numerous vessels of war which were sunk there when the allied armies were besieging that spot long famous in the history of the world. The magnitude of this contract has not been fully understood in this country. Mr. Gowen has heretofore been favorably known to the world by his success in raising the United States steamship Missouri from the waters of the bay of Gibraltar, a performance which engineers from England and other countries had attempted in vain. It happened that while at Gibraltar a Russian came into the harbor in a damaged condition. To the relief of this vessel Mr. Gowen sent a number of his men, refusing any compensation, and it is probable that this act of courtesy, with the fame obtained by Mr. Gowen in the bringing up of the Missouri, [moved] the Russian government at the time they contemplated raising their sunken fleet to send for him, which was don through the Russian Minister in this country.

Mr. Gowen accordingly went to St. Petersburg, had a number of interviews with the Grand Duke Constantine, and then proceeded across the country to Sebastopol for the purpose of making a personal investigation of the condition of the ships. He was engaged in this business for several months, having a Russian steamer at his disposal. Here he descended with his sub marine armor to the bottom of the harbor and examined the sunken vessels. He found that the channel of the harbor was in the middle with banks upon both sides, that of the north being of sand, and that upon the south of mud. In the sand there were no worms; in the mud they were quite plentiful. Of course the vessels exposed t the attacks of the worms are now of but little value; but it fortunately happens that but a small portion, comparatively, were sunk where they would suffer from the attacks of these worms.

When the English and French approached Sebastopol, the Russians, to protect their harbor, sunk at the entrance, between Forts Alexander and Constantine, two of the 120 gun ships, two of the 88 gun, two frigates and two corvettes. The line occupied by these sunken vessels was about three-quarters of a mile long, the water being sixty feet deep. The vessels sunk here were among the poorest in the fleet. In the great gale that was so fatal to the English and French vessels in the Black Sea, this line was so much disturbed, that the allies, if they had known it, could easily have obtained an entrance to the harbor. This caused the Russians to sink a second line between Fort Michael and Fort Nicholas, about a mile inward. When the Redan was captured by the allies, all the balance of the fleet was sunk, preparatory to abandoning the place. The following is a list of the vessels sunk.--


15   line-of-battle ships 1   boom ship
7   frigates  1   ten gun yacht
5   corvettes  23   transports
10   brigs of war 15   steamers of war
5   schooners of war 19   merchant ships
5   tenders

In all 106 vessels


The machinery of the steamers of war, before being sunk, was carefully covered with a preparation of tallow to prevent injury from the water. They were scuttled by boring three inch augur holes near the water line, and all this was done before the English and French appeared before the place, for the Russians did not entertain the idea of defending it, and one division of the army had advanced nine miles on the Perekop road, when word was brought that the English and French, instead of entering the city, had halted outside, and were fortifying their position. It was then that the Russian army returned, built the earth redoubts, and made that long and stubborn defence which has rendered the name of Sebastopol so famous. Thus the Russian officials at Sebastopol now tell the story. Mr. Gowen examined thirty ships, made a plan of the harbor and adjacent country, and returned to St. Petersburg. He found that there were no less than thirteen competitors for the contract from France and England, among the former being the company known as Credit Mobilier. The government finally concluded to make the contract with Mr. Gowen on the most liberal terms, which cannot fail, we think, to be amply remunerative. The value of the ships sunk is said to be sixty-five million dollars, and he has a certain portion of the value of each ship raised at the moment it is placed in the hands of the Russian government.

The expedition which sails from this country will consist of two vessels, one of which leaves Philadelphia about the 1st of April, and the second soon after. The number of persons engaged to accompany it from this country is about one hundred and fifty, the well known shipbuilder of this city, S.F. Holbrook, Esq., being one of the superintendents. There will be also, shipbuilders, caulkers, machinists, engineers, &c. Some of the hydraulic machinery for raising the vessels is of the most colossal description, one cylinder alone weighing 54,000 lbs.; indeed it must be so, for some of the vessels to be raised are of 5,000 tons burthen. The value of the material to be furnished by the Russian government to be used in the raising of the fleet, will be about a million and a half dollars, and the time occupied in performing the contract will, it is thought, be about eighteen months to two years.

At Kertch there are also some five or six Russian vessels sunk, which are included in the contract, and in the harbor of Sebastopol there are some $800,000 worth of chains and anchors, which the English and French threw overboard from inability to carry them off. In addition to the expedition from this country, the Russian government bind themselves to furnish from three thousand to five thousand men, whose pay from Mr. Gowen, as usual in that country, will not be more than twenty-five cents per day, they "finding" themselves. Take it altogether, it is the greatest contract-submarine or otherwise-ever entered into, and it will be with pride and pleasure that the countrymen of Mr. Gowen and his associates will hear of their entire success in the undertaking. Mr. G., as is well known, is a self-made, enterprising Yankee, who, though comparatively a young man, has travelled in nearly every country upon the globe.

Mr. Gowen, who was at Sebastopol in November last, gives us some interesting particulars from that now famous city. The Russian government are engaged in rebuilding it. Before the siege it was quite a populous place, containing, it is supposed, about sixty thousand persons. When Mr. Gowen was there, there about six thousand people in the place. Several thousand laborers were then engaged upon the works, and the number was to be largely increased. The old city was famous for its narrow streets, like Boston; the new city will be built in squares, like Philadelphia. It is also said that there are restrictions against the erection of wooden buildings. The forts about the city, according to the examinations of Mr. Gowen, are only about half destroyed. Of the immensity of the warlike material scattered with so much profuseness about this celebrated spot, some idea may be formed from the fact that the Russians have already gathered over sixteen thousand tons of shot and shell, and yet they are still so thickly scattered around that it is impossible to tread without touching them. There are, however, no dead bodies to be seen, they having been all carefully buried.
There was one spot visited by Mr. G., of melancholy interest. It was a deep ravine, formerly crossed by a bridge. Into this ravine, the bodies of two thousand Russian, French and English, killed in one of the more fatal battles, had been placed, and covered with earth. A wooden cross above has a brief inscription, telling of the slaughtered thousands thus rudely entombed beneath.

The country between Moscow and Sebastopol, for eight hundred miles, Mr. Gowen describes as level and quite luxuriant. Wheat in some places sells as cheap as eight cents a bushel, and hay a dollar a ton. The climate, at the time he was there, was both beautiful and salubrious-one of the best, he thinks, he ever visited. In connection with his contract, Mr. Gowen is entrusted with a commission which may result greatly to the benefit of the country.
He has been requested by the Russian government to bring with him specimens of our iron work, in the form of agricultural implements, tools of various kinds, machinery, &c. Mr. G. has given orders for the manufacture of articles of various kinds in this city, New York, Albany and other places. So far as is possible, the Russian government and people prefer to trade with this country in preference to England, for their hatred of the English is as intense as ever.
While at Sebastopol, Mr. Gowen says there were large numbers of French and English arriving. They were the relatives and friends of those who had fallen in the conflict, and were on a pilgrimage to find if possible the graves of the beloved dead. In many cases the last resting place of the soldiers and the name of the deceased were cut in rude characters, but in others the dead were buried in one undistinguishable mass, rendering identification impossible.
We are informed that many of the friends of Mr. Gowen, both in this country and in England, propose, during the performance of the contract, to visit Sebastopol, with the double object of seeing the place and witnessing the performance of this most stupendous undertaking.


Pioneer and Democrat
Olympia, Washington Territory, Friday, July 17, 1857, Vol. V, No. 34
(Note: Identical article appeared in 22 April 1857 Racine Weekly Journal)

Sailing of the Boston Expedition for Raising the Sunken Fleet at Sebastopol

The Boston Submarine Company have for some time past been vigorously engaged in pushing forward their preparations for raising the sunken ships at Sebastopol, under an arrangement made at St. Petersburg, by Colonel G. W. Lane; and on Saturday last, the day fixed for sailing, one of the vessels of the expedition, the “Silver Key,” cast loose from the wharf, and took her departure for the Black Sea. She was freighted entirely with machinery and apparatus adapted to raising ships and other submarine operations, and is commanded by Captain Joseph C. Currier, well known as one of our most reliable shipmasters.

The screw steamer “General Knox,” another vessel of the expedition, is already in the Black Sea. Numerous mechanics, and the best divers in the United States, are on their way with several complete sets of submarine armor, ample apparatus for blasting, and a Gwynne Pumping Engine, capable, when driven to its full capacity, of discharging one thousand barrels of water per minute! By means of this wonderful machine, a sunken vessel, even in 80 feet of water, (the deepest part of the harbor of Sebastopol is only sixty-six feet), can be pumped out, filled with air, and thus raised, without the slightest injury. Upwards of thirty large sunken steamers have been raised by this new and admirable process, in the U.S., within the last two years, and it is a noticeable fact that in no case has it failed of success. It is not necessary to attempt to make a sunken vessel perfectly tight. Leaks admitting one thousand gallons per minute, are of no consequence where the engine will discharge as many barrels in the same time.

In raising the steamer “Knickerbocker” in September last, from the bottom of the Hudson river, by this process, two air ports, each ten inches square, were purposely left open, in addition to the other leaks, and yet in just one hour and fifteen minutes she was afloat, ready to be towed to New York. This included all the stoppages required to keep her upright as she rose. The actual working time of the pump was just twenty minutes. She was a steamer of the largest class, 300 feet long and 32 feet beam, and until taken hold of by the Boston Submarine Company, was regarded as a hopeless case. These facts are attested by Mr. F. W. Moore, of the U.S. Navy, who, with Mr. W. Lee, Chief-Engineer of the Company, superintended the operation.

Mr. Lee, who has probably had a more varied and extensive experience in submarine engineering than any other person in America, will direct the operations at Sebastopol.

It is reported that another expedition is fitting out at Philadelphia, to try the old plan, with chains, scows, &c. Should this expedition go, there will probably be work enough for both, as there must be many vessels still valuable, which were so shattered and broken by shot and shells, as to be unsuited to this new method, and cannot be raised except by a dead lift. Such cases, however, have been provided for by the Boston Submarine Company—they have already sent out pneumatic and hydrostatic lifting power equal to 256 tons dead lift, to be followed, if needed, by similar lifting power, equal to 1000. –Boston Transcript  


The Living Age
Vol. 53, Issue 674, 25 April 1857, p. 211.

The Sunken Russian Fleet.

Of all the 70 vessels that were scuttled or sunk in the harbor of Sebastopol between September, 1854, and Feb­ruary, 1855, there have been only one steamer, the Chersonese, and a few transports, raised. The result of the examination to which the others have been subjected by divers, shows them to be not worth much expense being bestowed upon them. The ships of the line, which were sunk at the entrance of the harbor, had already been ten years afloat, and have now been imbedded in the sands there for two winters, so that they certainly cannot be worth much. The liners, Paris, Grossfurst, Constantine, Maria, and Tschesma, are lying on their beam ends, and have been much injured by the lurching over of the guns, the ballast, and other ponderous articles ; the Chrabry, Kullewtschy, and the steamers Vladimir, Bessarabia, Gromonessetz, Odessa, Krimea, and Turok, are described as standing upright on their keels, and it is pro­posed to lift these by means of the Chersonese and the transports. As regards those steamers which were among the vessels that were last sunk, considerable hopes are entertained that they may be brought into service again. The parties who have undertaken the recovery of these wrecks from the bottom of the harbor, are to be paid for their trouble and outlay with one half the estimated value of all objects recovered, a remuneration that is thought to be in all probability very inadequate to the expenses. The method proposed is to fasten on the sides of the vessel to be raised, sacks, made air-tight with tar or gutta percha; in the case of a ship of the line, it is calculated that 2000 of these sacks must be used containing 50,000 cubic feet of air. Whether the scuttled vessels can ever be used or not, it seems to be decided that they must be lifted, and not blown to pieces, inasmuch as by the latter process the roads would be encum­bered with a vast number of chains, guns, anchors, and other heavy bodies, which would forever after obstruct the anchorage very much.


Scientific American
Volume 12, Issue 35, May 9, 1857, NYC, p.278.

Americans Raising Sunken Vessels.

Our countrymen have long been dis­tinguished for raising sunken vessels, and for submarine feats in general. A Boston carpenter, prior to the Revolution, made an independent fortune, and at last received the order of knighthood in England, for raising great treasures from some sunken Spanish galleons. A few years since, American sub­marine divers, after repeated failures by Englishmen, removed the hull of the steam frigate Missouri, which was sunk at the mouth of the harbor of Gibraltar. Their character stands very high for marine en­gineering, and an evidence of this fact is found in their employment by the Russian government, to raise the ships which were sunk at Sevastopol during the famous siege of that city. We understand that the con­tract was made with Col. J. E. Gowan, of Boston, who achieved so much distinction at Gibraltar, and he has departed with a large corps of Americans to carry out his engage­ments with Russia. Apparatus has been sent from Philadelphia and Boston to Sevas­topol to conduct the operations, and our coun­trymen are confident that they will succeed in raising the sunken fleet, which amounts to one hundred vessels--large and small--some of these being 84 gun ships. The undertaking is one of great magnitude--the greatest of the kind ever attempted--and will be the means, it is believed, of making the fortunes of the principal persons engaged in the enter­prise--Col. Gowan, and those whom he has associated with him.

In raising a sunken vessel, submarine armor and the diving bell are employed to make explorations under water, in order to enclose the vessel so as to shut out the sur­rounding water. The water is then pumped out of the sunken vessel, and camels are after­wards employed to raise it up--float it. Com­pact steam engines and centrifugal hydraulic pumps have been sent to Sevastopol, and also some india rubber camels. Marine camels were first employed by the Dutch in Holland about 1690. They consist of two similar hollow water-tight wooden vessels, so con­structed that they can be applied on each side of the hull of a ship. On the deck of each, windlasses are attached which work the chains passed under the keel of the vessel to be raised. When the camel is employed, the water is allowed to fill each half of it; and when the ship is firmly attached to it, the water is pumped out, and the buoyancy of the hollow vessels raises it up. A ship drawing fifteen feet water could by this means be made to draw only eleven feet, and the largest man-of-war then in the Dutch service made to pass the sand-banks of the Zuyder Zee.

It has been related that during the war in 1812, some vessels were built in Buffalo harbor for action on the upper lakes, and being of too great draft to cross the bar, they were actually lifted over it with camels, and did good service afterwards under Commodore Perry.  


Brooklyn Eagle
24 June 1857

The American schooner Silver Key, from Boston, with hydraulic apparatus for raising the sunken ships at Sebastopol, arrived at Malta on the 6th of May, and sailed again on the following day for the scene of operations.


The Weyauwegan

Weyauwega, Wisconsin, Friday 24 July 1857


The Sunken Fleet of the Black Sea.—Fifteen of the Russian vessels that were sunk during the war in the Black Sea, between Sebastopol, Nicoloff, and Odessa have been raised. The steamers Pruth, Laba, Reni, Danube and Chersonese have been refitted and are again in service. There were 87 vessels in all sunk, and those that have been recovered have been raised by the Russians under the direction of their engineer and naval officers. The American company with which the Government has contracted for the raising of the vessels sunk at the mouth of the harbor by Prince Menschikoff at the commencement of the siege, are expected to commence operations soon.


New York Times
21 August 1857

From Sebastopol—Raising the Sunken Fleets
From the Boston Journal

We have been favored with the perusal of a letter from one of our fellow-citizens who is engaged in raising the Russian fleet at Sebastopol. Messrs. Gowen and Copeland arrived at that place early in June, and found the expedition dispatched from Boston was ahead of them, and had been interceding with the Governor for employment.  The Governor informed these persons that the whole contract was in the hands of Col. Gowen and his company, and he could do nothing for them, and as Messrs. Gowen & Co. did not wish for their services, their expedition to Sebastopol came to a sudden termination. There are some Turkish ships sunk in the Bosphorus, however, and it may be that the Submarine Company will get leave to try their skills upon them. We hope they may, and that success will crown their enterprise. The writer says:

“We are getting on here faster than I supposed we should, as we have every difficulty to encounter. The bark Susan Jane arrived here in forty five days from Philadelphia, the quickest passage on record. She, however, had only a portion of the machinery, so that we cannot commence on the heavy work—raising the hulks—for some time yet, but there is an abundance of work to be done. We are now engaged in taking out guns, and clearing the ships of their chains and anchors, preparatory to lifting them, and we cannot have better property. We have had one gang at work four days, but only partially equipped, and have raised one long sixty-four pounder, four forty-two pounders, one anchor and chain, and to-day shall get up about $2,000 worth of property. The work will be finished certainly in two years. The climate of Sebastopol is the finest in the world: the heat in the middle of the day is intense, though not so oppressive as at home; about 3 p.m. the sea breeze springs up and it cools off finely. We have delightful nights for rest and sleep; the air is perfectly dry, and coughs and colds are things entirely unknown.”

The writer speaks of the Russian Governor as a man of great ability, honor and integrity, cheerfully rendering the Company all the aid in his power to overcome the difficulties which necessarily lie in the way of strangers, speaking a foreign language.  


Scientific American
Volume 12, Issue 51, Aug 29, 1857, NYC, p.401.

The Raising of Vessels at Sevastopol.

Up to a quite recent date the accounts re­ceived through foreign sources of the success of our countryman, Gowan, in raising the vessels of war sunk at Sevastopol are not as favorable as we bad hoped. The line-of-bat­tle ships, frigates, and other vessels which were sunk to form three lines at the entrance of the port, it has been found impossible to move. They ere deeply imbedded in the sand above the bilge, and are heavily laden with stones and other articles, which were convey­ed on board in order to fix them in their places. Seven small steamers which were anchored near the shore in rather shallow water, and were grounded rather than sunk, were the only vessels which had been taken up and repaired at Nicolaieff.

This is the substance of one account. Another, derived from a letter from one of the members of the expedition from Boston, says that the bark Susan Jane arrived there in forty-five days from Philadelphia, the quickest passage on record; but they cannot com­mence on the heavy work-raising the bulls, for some time yet, and are now engaged in taking out guns, and clearing the ships of their chains and anchors, preparatory to lifting them. The letter estimates that the work will be finished certainly in two years.

The importance of removing the ships on account of their obstruction to navigation is less than it would be if the place still retained its former importance. The point to which we believe the Russian government now directs its greatest efforts is Theodosia, or Kaffa, which is to be one of the heads of the line of railway, and is likely to become a great commercial port.  


New York Times
13 November 1857

Americans at Sebastopol
Correspondence of the Philadelphia Press

Sebastopol, Saturday, August 29, 1857

We make up parties of pleasure every Sunday, (Wiscrusiana in Russia,) and either go sailing or on horseback to the different places around and about Sebastopol—such as Inkermann, Redan, Malakoff, Balaklava, Backstorie, &c. A description of these places may form the basis of a future letter.

On the first of July we commenced diving. “An old practical diver,” as he represented himself to be, from Boston, was the first to begin operations, but he made such a bungling attempt that an Englishman, who had been in the employment of the Russians as diver for eight months previous, and was engaged by our company, insisted that this must have been the very first time the Bostonian had ever been in the water. He also satisfied Billy McL___ [sic] that diving “was not what it was cracked up to be.” He has never been with us since, though Billy says he will try it yet.

The next day I descended in the Submarine armor, with nerves unshaken and heart as fearless as it is at this moment. Upon my second descent I made up to a large anchor, which was pulled up, and was truly a great haul. Since then I have been diving every week-day, in the morning or the afternoon, and some days both before and after dinner. For the last week I have not been down, as we are breaking in a Greek, who will make an expert diver. He cannot speak a word of English except what I have taught him.

We have had very little rain since our arrival. Most of what we had came in the night, rendering the water very cold—especially when the diver has to go into the holds of sunken vessels. There is no tide whatever, and but little current, in Sebastopol harbor, and as the water lies dormant in the holds, is very cold to the diver.

Our dresses leak very much. On two or three occasions I have taken off my dress with no less than tow or three buckets of water in it, and not I alone have been in this plight, so comfortless and dangerous. It has been the same with all the rest. We have six of these dresses at present, and must have sixteen to eighteen more to do the necessary diving, there being one hundred and seventy-two vessels of various sizes, sunk in this harbor. Many of them still have to be blown up. One, called the Sagodell, Mr. S. Eakins commenced operations upon to-day, the 30th August. He succeeded in blowing her nearly all to pieces. It required over 3,000 pounds of gunpowder, and will take 2,000 more to demolish her entirely.

Col. Gowen commenced on the Paris, but did not make much headway with her, as the batteries would not work in his hands. However, Eaking [sic] astonished the natives to-day, as not a single pontoon missed fire. A great number of Russians lined the shores to witness the explosions, which made a truly splendid sight, the water being thrown up full 30 feet high.

The bark Our Union arrive here on the 21st of August, being 74 days coming. As I understood from the sailors, she sailed on June 5, and stopped five days at Constantinople. Her procrastination was one reason why I did not write, as I expected Mr. Eakins and Bill Hiller in her. The passengers (only four) and crew were all. The crew are now engaged in discharging cargo.

We have one of our caissons nearly completed and as it needs four, we shall not be able to raise any vessels until Spring. The work goes slowly on. However, now that Mr. Wickersham and Mr. Pierce (the chief engineer) have arrived, they may be able to hurry up the cakes.

Mr. Wickersham and Mr. Eakins arrived here last Friday evening, in the Farakote steamer, from Odessa, which is distant some 300 miles. They were detained there by the Russian officials for three weeks. Mr. Wickersham was not allowed to bring his family to Sebastopol, until Colonel Gowan interfered. The Colonel had to communicate with the Powers that be in this tyrannical country before they would allow him to proceed.

The mails go only once in every ten days from Sebastopol to Odessa, so you may see how time is lost in communication—especially as Odessa is the headquarters of this part of the Russian dominions.

Not a single one of our men, if they had to ship over again, would sign articles to come to this poverty stricken hole. You cannot purchase a decent pair of boots in Sebastopol. What they term Sap o yals and Bas-makers, (that is boot and shoemakers,) you would not give a dollar for in the United States. For a pair of boots they ask five or six rubles, (each ruble is eighty cents, as I mentioned before,) and for a pair of gaiter shoes, which lasted me only three weeks, I paid four rubles. I wore them out, mind you, in three weeks, putting them on only on Sundays and sometimes in the evenings.

Ready made clothing cannot be purchased in Sebastopol, except overalls and calico shirts. For one of the latter they demand Pottarina Rupe Cedubra, which means a ruble and a half in silver. A common black cloth or satinet cap costs two rubles; a pair of pantaloons ten or twelve rubles, and fifteen rubles if made of fine black cloth. No kind of a hat can be obtained in Sebastopol, for any money. Of cap makers I found no lack, but not a single hatter. Tailors are plentiful; but there is one boot maker, a German. Nearly every storekeepers and tailor is a German Jew.

In the whole of Sebastopol there are only two hotels, each of which can accommodate forty persons. These hotels are only one story high, and I am informed, and can readily believe, that the accommodations are of the very worst description.

That you may understand the Russian currency, and estimate it by ours, I must tell you that a ruble is estimated at eighty cents, (though not worth seventy-five,) and that one hundred kopeks—pronounced kopeeks—are in each ruble. A kopeck is three-fourths of our cent.  


New York Times
17 September 1857

Operations of the Philadelphia Submarine Mining Company at Sebastopol
Correspondence of the New York Times

Redoubt Ralle, Circassia, on the Euxine
Tuesday, July 28, 1857.

I arrived at this far-off city of mud houses yesterday. This is the place of whose inhabitants Mahomet, in the year of our Lord 630, said “the women are made for love and the men for war.” In the year 1857, I should say these human brutes, without arts, laws, and almost any intellect or language, can scarcely be distinguished from the rest of the lower creation. They resemble somewhat the Indian Diggers of California, though of rather lighter complexion. The war waged by Russia against these Circassians resembles very much our own war with the Seminole Indians of Florida. There is no saying when it will end. The Circassians bears a venomous hatred towards the Russians because the latter prevent them selling their children to the Turks. They managed, during the war, to send off to Constantinople a cargo of 1,000 of their daughters, but they cannot do so now.

There is a regular Russian line of steamers between Odessa and this place. The accommodation is good and the fare reasonable. Eupatoria, where the English fleet first landed, is an old Tartar town, of no importance, with an open roadstead for its harbor; but Sebastopol, the next port, has one of the finest harbors in the world.  At present a fleet of seventy-three vessels are sunk there. The Philadelphia Submarine Mining Company have the contract to clear the harbor, and under its enterprising President, Col. Gowen, the job will be accomplished. The Colonel ahs with him a hundred superior American mechanics, and any quantity of Russian laborers. He has now been at Sebastopol six weeks, and the Company has already erected a storehouse, machine and blacksmiths’ shops, and houses for the men. They have two large gun-boats of 400 tons, a barge of 100 tons, and a large dock, nearly ready to launch, besides the steamer General Knox, the bark Susan Jane, and the schooner Silver Key. They are expecting also, the arrival of the ship Our Union, with three additional docks. Sebastopol at this time has all the life activity, and appearance of a New England ship-yard. The Company has two gangs of divers at work, clearing away the vessels before attempting to raise them. In doing this they have recovered a large number of cannon, some 68 pounds in weight,(1) and about twelve feet long, from the steamship Vladimir; also a great many anchors and chains, some of them weighing seven tons, from the 120 gun ship Constantine, besides a large amount of rigging, brass, copper, &c. The iron steamers and new ships have not received any material damage from the worms, but the old ships will not be worth repairing. The anchors, chains, copper, sheathing, bolts, rigging, &c., are of very great value.


(1) Probably a misunderstanding by the writer for the weight of the shot by which the cannon was described: “a sixty-eight pounder.”


Janesville Morning Gazette
Janesville, Wisconsin, Tuesday 20 October 1857


Sub-Marine Operations in the Crimea.—William Leland, of New York, has just returned from the Crimea, where with his associates he has been engaged in raising the Russian ships sunk at Sevastopol. He reports the operation a good one financially. Many articles are raised in a perfect state. Chains, anchors, guns, rigging, and many valuable things are entirely uninjured, but the hulls of the vessels are badly worm eaten. There are two companies on the ground—one from New York and the other from Boston. They have united their operations, have between them four vessels, and have ninety-seven Americans engaged in the operations. When he left, there were but two on the sick list. Quite a large number of Russians are also employed at about 80 cents a day. They companies have half of what they raise, the other half going to the Russian government, which also stands ready to purchase anything of value that falls to the lot of the companies. It is a regular Yankee operation, and a very good exemplification of the enterprise of the Americans. –Springfield Republican.


New York Times
12 December 1857


The Sunken Ships at Sebastopol
From the Boston Traveller, 10th

No ships of war have yet been raised, but the Boston Submarine Company have been at work upon an eighty-four gun ship. This ship has become deeply embedded in the mud, the Russians before scuttling her having placed heavy granite blocks upon he decks to prevent injury to the vessel from the shot of the enemy.

All this granite has been recovered, together with a large amount of other material, sufficient to leave a surplus after paying expenses, the share of the Gowen Company and the Russians. In regard to the ship, the Gwinn pump was used and actually drew up water from the hold of the vessel, at a distance of forty-six feet from the surface at the rate of seventy thousand gallons a minute, without starting the vessel. The commander of the expedition is confident, however, that with the use of pontoons or bags of India-rubber filled with air, introduced into the hold, they shall be more successful.

The Gowen Company, it is also stated, have been quite successful in raising material, of which there are millions in amount upon the bottom, and neither party have, so far as is known, the slightest intention of abandoning the undertaking.

Up to the 4th of November the weather had been extremely pleasant, and on that day they were sitting at open windows eating blackberries.

The Russian Government, it is stated, still look with favor upon this famous city, and are energetically at work to restore it to something of its former strength and efficiency. Next Spring the Grand Duke Constantine, and others of the Imperial family, will visit the place, to superintend the operations of rebuilding, &c.

One of the vessels of the Boston Submarine Company was at Constantinople taking in coal and provisions with which to return to Sebastopol. This does not look like an abandonment of the expedition.


Milwaukee Daily Sentinel
13 January 1858

The Sunken Ships at Sebastopol
From the Boston Traveller, January 6th

The reported abandonment of the expedition to Sebastopol to raise the sunken Russian vessels of war at that port, is not correct, as far as the Marine Exploring Company of Philadelphia is concerned, in which Col. J. E. Gowan and others of the city have an interest. It may refer to the vessels of the Boston Submarine Company. A correspondent of the Transcript says:

"Advices received from the Company by the last steamer, represent that they were in full tide of successful operations, employing several hundred men, had recovered large amounts of valuable property, and had blown to pieces and raised a number of ships, besides having recovered many chains and anchors, guns, large amounts of copper, iron, hemp, and other valuable materials.

The bark Susan Jane had been dispatched or Liverpool, with a cargo valued at upwards of $10,000, being a portion of the property recovered from the bottom of the harbor, and a part of the share of the Marine Exploring Company.

They have at present large additional amounts of property on shore, awaiting a conveyance to Liverpool for disposal. The prospect for a handsome profit is regarded as very flattering, and the parties engaged in this undertaking have not the slightest intention of abandoning the work.


The Fort Wayne Sentinel
Fort Wayne, Indiana, Saturday 16 January 1858


The Sebastopol Expedition a Failure.—The Berlin correspondent of the London Times says the American schooner Silver Key, having on board the engineers and machinery that were to have been employed in the raising of vessels sunk at Sebastopol, has returned to Constantinople. It is said that the vessels are reported by divers to be so thoroughly buried in the mud and earth that any raising of them is out of the question. The difficulties and expense of raising them is estimated to exceed the probable proceeds of salvage.


Scientific American
Volume 13, Issue 20, Jan 23, 1858, NYC, p. 155.

Submarine Operations at Sevastopol.

A paragraph has been going the rounds of the papers, in which it is stated that the American contractors to raise the sunken Russian fleet at Sevastopol have given up the project in disgust, and have returned to Constantinople on their way home. It is stated that the sunken vessels have become so deeply imbedded in the mud and sand brought down by the river into the bay that it is impossible to raise them. On the other hand, the Boston Transcript states that the Marine Exploring Company of Philadelphia, which has the contract for raising these vessels, is under heavy bonds to the Russian government to perform the work. The Transcript also asserts that this company, instead of running away from Sevastopol in disgust, has been very successful, and employ several hundred men in the Operations. It admits, however, that the Boston Relief and Submarine Company, also at Sevastopol, had ceased operations, and withdrawn all their vessels. This explains the whole matter. Two American submarine exploring companies went to Sevastopol; one of them has failed, the other has been successful.


Jackson County Banner
February 18, 1858

American Enterprise-Yankee Gold Hunting Under Water

There is scarcely a spot on the globe, where money is likely to be made either by application of art, or Yankee enterprise, that Americans cannot be found enlisted. A Boston, as well as a Philadelphia Submarine Co., are now engaged in raising the sunken Russian fleets, in the harbor of Sebastopol, a work which the Russians themselves never thought of undertaking with hope of success, but which will be accomplished by Americans. The English have built a "Leviathan" ship, which months of effort, and several hundred thousand dollars expended, have failed to launch into her intended element. An American company has offered to do the job safely for a moderate sum, and, if they fail, to charge nothing.

Another expedition showing American enterprise, is now operating in the far off Caribbean Sea. Advices have just been received at the office of the Boston Relief and Submarine Company from Capt. Joseph P. Couthouy, commanding the Company's expedition there, date Caribbean Sea, brig Monagos, over the San Pedro, Dec. 12, 1857, by which it appears that after about three months' preparation, in blasting and clearing away rubbish, the divers had at length got into the hold of the San Pedro, and were beginning to take out specie-several hundred dollars having been found during the last few days.

Capt. C. says: "In my judgment, here is tangible and weighty evidence that there must be a round sum in her, when dollars are found (like all of late) in rolls, or parts of rolls,, in lumps of $15 and $20, to $90 and $100 each; I is not likely that these are a few scattered ones; they must be only the heralds of the main body to which they belong."
It will be remembered by many that the San Pedro was the flag-ship of a squadron of fifteen sail, including transports, sent out by Spain as long ago as 1815, with an army of 12,000 men, to reconquer the revolted province of Venezuela, and that she blew up in the bay of Camana, and sunk in sixty feet of water.
It is proved by official documents that she had on board at the time of the catastrophe, $3,000,000, of which $1,600,000 were in gold. Of this large sum, till now, only about $400,000 have been recovered, which were obtained by means of a diving bell, in the mud and sand outside the ship. This is the first successful attempt ever made to penetrate the hull, where there is every reason to believe that the bulk of the treasure will be found.
The brass guns that have been found are known to have been stowed in the hold before the explosion, of which there are said to have been from sixty to one hundred thousand dollars worth, comprising a park of field artillery, and the bronze guns taken from captured and dismantled forts; of these, five beautiful pieces of ordnance, in a perfect state of preservation, have been taken up, besides considerable quantities of copper, and other articles of value.
The prospect now is that the persevering efforts of Capt. Couthouy will be crowned with complete success. He has the very best of machinery, and bold and experienced divers. His crew are devoted to him, cheerfully working 8½ hours a day under water. He has adopted a systematic plan of operation, by which with the aid of gunpowder and the submarine armor, he will undoubtedly be able to completely demolish the San Pedro, and be handsomely rewarded in securing the vast treasure she contains. Nothing short of Yankee enterprise, however, would attempt to accomplish such a feat after a lapse of forty-three years.


Scientific American
Volume 13, Issue 31, Apr 10, 1858, NYC, p. 241.

American Submarine Explorers at Sevastopol.

By the most recent accounts from Europe, we learn that both of the two American companies, which had formed contracts to raise the sunken ships at Sevastopol, have given up the project as quite impracticable. The hulls of these sunken vessels have been rendered completely useless by the teredo of the Black Sea. Some of these vessels were caulked and made seemingly tight for the purpose of pumping out the water prior to the act of raising them, but the timber was afterwards found so rotten that the water run through it like a sieve. The anchors and cables raised are sufficient to cover some of the expenses of the companies, but not the whole. No less than eighty-one vessels were sunk, and some of these were eighty gun ships-all are lost forever.


Scientific American
Volume 13, Issue 37, May 22, 1858, NYC, p. 292.

The Sunken Ships at Sevastopol.

The Philadelphia Ledger asserts, on excellent authority, that the report that the Sevastopol company has proved a failure, and that the sunken ships cannot be raised, is an error. Whatever the difficulties in removing these obstructions in the entrance of the most important port in the Crimea-and the difficulties have been greatly exaggerated-the Russian government is determined that they shall be overcome; and as it is prepared to remunerate the contractors adequately, no matter what may be the cost, success is only a question of time.


The Weekly Hawk-Eye
Burlington, Iowa, Tuesday 1 June 1858


The Boston submarine expedition to Sebastopol has returned, having given up the attempt to raise the sunken Russian ships and sold their property at Constantinople to pay expenses. It has been a losing operation for the Company. The Philadelphia Company remains at Sebastopol and will try to clear the harbor, having received additional inducements from the Russian government.


New York Times
10 July 1858

The Sebastopol Submarine Expedition
From the Boston Transcript

Letters have been received in this city, dated Sebastopol, may 24, by which we learn that the work of raising the sunken Russian fleet progresses rapidly and with remarkable success. We make the following extract from the letters: "We have raised whole the 16-gun vessel-of-war Smelya, and brought her down to the Admiralty, slung between the caissons, last night. She had over 300 tons of mud in her hold and on her decks, besides all her rigging, iron tanks, pig iron ballast, &c., &c. She laid up the South Bay, and as the rains wash the steep banks that comprise the sides of the bay, the soil being quite alluvial, it constantly keeps the water in a roiled state, depositing the sediments on the decks and in the hatches; this, however, is not the case in the main harbor, and we only tried this vessel to test the machinery before going to work at raising the heavier vessels. The caissons operated as well as we expected, and at no time did w use over one one-fifth [sic] of their power. This, of course, demonstrates the entire feasibility of raising any and every ship in the harbor of Sebastopol. We shall, undoubtedly, raise the whole fleet this Summer. Next week we hall raise a steamer whole, and shall follow with raising all that are worth the labor whole, and blast with submarine charges the balance."


New York Times
24 July 1858

Wrecking in Sebastopol

To the Editor of the New York Times:

A letter on the subject of the wrecking operations at Sebastopol lately appeared in the Boston Transcript, and was extensively copied in journals of this City. It was one of several which have been published in the same paper during the past year, and, like others of the same series, contained statements in many particulars so absurdly untrue, that those acquainted with the facts could only laugh at them, considering the whole correspondence in the light of a stock-puffing advertisement. It seems, however, to have been accepted by a large portion of the public, not acquainted with the facts, as measurably true, and as throwing discredit on the operations of the Boston expedition under my command, which ahs recently returned from that port; and believing, from the numerous inquiries addressed tome for information on the subject, especially since the appearance of the letter above referred to, that a statement of the facts within my knowledge would be of some public interest, and at the same time save me necessity of frequent repetitions, I have prepared such a statement, and request a place for it in the columns of the Times.

First, let me say, the expedition fitted out from Boston was abandoned, not because Mr. Gowen had an exclusive contract for the work, nor yet because the work was impracticable, but solely because it would not pay. Great pains have indeed been taken from the beginning to create the belief that the Philadelphia company, represented by Mr. Gowen, was the only one which could engage in the work, or reap any profits to be expected from it; and the assertion is repeated in the letter in question that "Mr. Gowen is the only American who has a contract with the Russian Government for doing the work." Mr. Gowen did indeed procure the first contract, which was in terms exclusive; but his progress during the first season fell so short of his undertaking that his exclusive rights were forfeited, and the Government felt at liberty to contract with other parties. Under these circumstances, after working side by side with Gowen's expedition, under his contract, for four months, I obtained from the Government, in December last, for the Boston Relief and Submarine Company, a separate contract, on the same general terms as Gowen's, but much more favorable in several important particulars-as, for example, we were at liberty to leave when we would, neither vessels nor apparatus subject to any forfeiture, whereas all the machinery and apparatus of the Philadelphia Company are, by their contract, held as security for the completion of the work in two years and six months from the time of commencing.

The contract given to me is now in the possession of the Boston R. & S. Co., and may be seen at their office. They are not working under it, for several reasons, any one of which would, if known in time, have prevented their sending out an expedition, and altogether were enough to recall it. One of these reasons is, that revelations in regard to material and manner of construction, made in blasting the wrecks, prove conclusively that they never were worth much as ships. Again, repeated and thorough examinations by divers in all parts of the harbor show that whatever their condition originally may have been, they are now so utterly destroyed by worms as that probably three in the whole harbor, if they were raised today, would be worth anything at all as ships. Furthermore, it appeared that the Government itself, satisfied that the sunken vessels were not worth repairing for actual service, would allow nothing for the contractors' share in them, even if raised whole, beyond their value as old material, and would not become the purchase even of that, but would insist on an actual division; so that they must, after all, have been broken up and divided, and the contractors' share transported to Constantinople or elsewhere for a market. And even for this purpose their real was much less than their apparent value, owing to the scant allowance of copper used in their construction, amounting to not exceeding one-third of what is usually found in vessels of the same class.

One statement in the Transcript is to the effect that the Philadelphia Company "have removed fifteen ships by blasting." Now, at the time I left, January 24, they had been six months blasting on the Paris and Agodel, one of which was then nearly half broken up, the other not more than one fourth. In the mean time many of their best workmen, all indeed that could get away, had left them, and the Government, alarmed at the enormous expense incurred for powder, had prohibited them from commencing on any other vessels till these should be entirely removed. As to the probability that this work can have been completed, with a diminished force, in the three stormy months of February, March and April, and not only that, but thirteen other vessels broken up and removed by the same process, the public can judge.

The letter above referred to says: "We raised the sixteen-gun corvette Smelya," and "she is not badly worm-eaten," &c. The Smelya was a schooner, nineteen years old, lying up South Bay, and was one of the last I examined before leaving, with a view to raising her by pontoons, which might very easily have been done, if she had been worth the trouble. A careful examination showed her to be "another honeycomb;" and the fact that one of the divers twice broke through the deck, in consequence of its rottenness from this cause, seemed to indicate that she was rather "badly worm-eaten." And for this reason we abandoned the idea of raising her.

I have in my possession specimens of wood taken from the Chesma, a vessel in at least as good condition as any in the harbor, an examination of which will give a better idea than anything I can say of the condition of the ships, one and all, exposed to the attacks of worms in the waters of Sebastopol. And my statement on this and other points may be further substantiated by the Philadelphia Company, nearly all of them having returned to the United States.

W. Lee
New York, Monday, July 19, 1858.


Scientific American
Volume 14, Issue 11, Nov 20, 1858, NYC, p. 86.

Sevastopol-A New Pump Wanted

Two American companies entered into engagements with the Russian government to raise the ships which were sunk in the harbor of Sevastopol during the Crimean war. One of these companies, from Boston, gave up the enterprise last year, and returned, having made a failure of the business. The other company, from Philadelphia, has continued steadily at work, and success has attended its efforts. A very intelligent correspondent of the New York Tribune, writing from that city on the let of September, states that they have raised the Empress Catherine, 120 guns Chesma, 84 guns; a frigate of 60 guns; the Lemelia, a gun boat, and a beautiful steamer which was once the Sultan of Turkey's yacht. The company's share of the profits will be a very large one, and their pay prompt and sure. Although many of the sunk vessels will be recovered, yet he says that "millions worth of property lies buried here which can never be recov6red unless some Yankee will invent a windmill pump of sufficient power to empty the Black Sea. As you are given at home to magnificent enterprises, to Pacific railroads, canals, and Atlantic telegraph cables, I shall expect to see in some future number of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN a diagram of such a pump. The only requisite is that it shall empty the Black Sea and carry off the water." The correspondent of the Tribune is not far wrong in having such strong faith in Yankee pluck and genius. The manner of raising the sunken ships at Sevastopol is very simple and effectual. Two chains of great size are passed under the bottom of a sunken vessel by divers; these are attached to a pair of floating caissons at each side, the valves of which are then opened, and they are sunk to within two feet of the deck. The valves are then closed, and the caissons pumped empty. As the water is pumped out of them, they begin to ascend and lift the sunken vessel with them by their power of floatage. The reports which have been circulated that the hulls of these sunken vessels have been destroyed by the teredo or ship-worm are not correct. The bottom of the harbor is filled with deep soft mud ; this covers nearly the entire hulls, leaving only the spars and upper works exposed to the teredo, which does not operate under the mud. The machinery of the steamers which have been raised was very little injured.


Weekly Patriot
Madison, Wisconsin, Saturday 20 November 1858

We [Ga?gnani] have received the following communication from the party who has contracted to raise the Russian vessels in the harbor of Sevastopol. It is dated from that port, and bears the day of September 30: “I noticed an article in your journal relating to the sunken ships in this harbor. As so many contradictory statements have appeared, some declaring that the Americans who contracted for the removal of the ships had abandoned the work as hopeless; others, that the terrible worm of the Black Sea had entirely destroyed the vessels; others, that the work was never confided to an American; in answer to all such reports allow me to state that I contracted with the Russian Government in October, 1856, to remove the ships and vessels sunk in the harbor; that I am an American; that immediately on closing the contract I returned to the United States, and had such machinery constructed as was necessary, and arrived at this place the following year, and commenced preparing the machinery and materials, which were not completed until May last. Since that time I have raised whole the 16-gun schooner Smelai, the steamers Turk and Groznoi—also the 16-gun brig Ae_as, the Parassiane and Strelia, and am now engaged on the steamers Danube and Odessa, which will be raised in a few days. In addition to the above I have entirely removed the hulls of two old line-of-battle ships and a frigate that were formerly used as prison ships; also the frigate Havanna and the line-of-battle ship Sagodal, with the exception of her keel, which is buried in over twelve feet of soft mud. My forces are now engaged in the removal of the 120-gun ship Constantine, line-of-battle ship Paris, and transport Benezan, which ships are in the middle of the harbor and are rapidly being removed. The teredo has not injured the sunken ships to the amount generally supposed. The Russian Government are now repairing the steamer Turk, which is in excellent order; her hull is quite sound, with the exception of her upper works, her engines require some slight repairs; the commission that examined her decided that it would require but five per cent of her value to restore her to complete running order. The other vessels are in equally as good a condition. I beg further to remark that I contracted to clear the harbor of Sevastopol, and shall complete the work in a faithful manner. The various contradictory statements that have appeared have undoubtedly arisen from the fact that an American company came here with a wonderful pump (Gwinne’s), by which means they supposed they could exhaust the water from the ships and float them. After ineffectual attempts for six months, they abandoned their work, and departed for America via Constantinople. Not wishing to deporciate [sic: depreciate] the power of their machinery, they reported the impossibility of the ships ever being removed, which ahs now been practically refuted.


The Daily Sentinel
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Monday 3 October 1859

Raising Sunken Vessels.—The Boston Post is informed in a private letter that Mr. John E. Gowen, the contractor for the removal of the sunken vessels at Sevastopol, has been invited by the Allied Commissioners on the Danube to raise a large number of vessels sunk at the Seluna entrance of the Danube, and to remove some serious impediments. He has also been invited by the Austrian government to raise several ships-of-war and large war-steamers sunk in the harbor of Venice during the late war.


Delaware State Reporter
Dover, Friday, October 14, 1859

The Sunken Ships at Sebastopol

A correspondent of the London Times says:--I can give you some fully reliable information about the labors of the Philadelphians in the harbor of Sebastopol. It comes from persons lately returned from there. As I wrote to you some considerable time ago, the first attempts made by the Boston Wrecking Company failed. This company retired and the Philadelphia, with Col. Gowan at its head, made a new and more favorable agreement with the Russian Government. According to the first, the proceeds from the sale of the vessels raised were to be divided equally between the government and the company. The present agreement is, that the whole proceeds belong to the company. The works were begun in the south harbor last autumn, and have been since continued with considerable success; 28 vessels-brigs, schooners, and lately one corvette of 18 guns-have been successfully raised. Of the 28 vessels, 15 have been raised whole, and with the hulls in very fair condition, the others were broken to pieces, and taken out in that state; but even in this latter case, the copper bolts, sheathing, and the timber pay for the expenses of raising.

In the south harbor it seems the ravages done by the Black Sea teredo are not considerable, probably owing to its being less subject to the waters of the Tchernaya. I have myself seen the double eagle that occupied the stern of the Calypso, which is in a perfect state of preservation. With the profits derived from the vessels raised, the apparatus is increased. Only lately a caisson, with a power of 2,500 tons was launched, and another will soon follow. With the two together, it is hoped that some of the larger ships can be raised. The wrecks will find a ready sale on the spot, or are sent to Odessa and Constantinople.

There are about 32 Americans, and from 60 to 70 Russians, employed on the works; and it is confidently expected that in two years the whole harbor can be cleared. With the exception of the ships sunk at the entrance of the great harbor, no guns are on board any of the vessels.


The New York Times
20 August 1860


The American Company, engaged to raise the sunken fleet at Sebastopol, have lately brought alongside the wharf the 60-gun frigate Koalefchi—the vessel whose masts have for so many years, stood upright in the center of the harbor. The Koalefchi weighs 4,500 tons. She is in good condition, and is the first frigate ever raised whole. Mr. Gowen, of Boston, is the chief of this American Company, and he has contributed not a little credit of “Yankee enterprise,” by his ability and perseverance in the important and arduous task he has undertaken to perform.


The Banner of Liberty
Middletown, NY 26 September 1860


The Sunken Ships at Sevastopol.—According to a letter from Sevastopol, received in Paris, the Russians, since December last, have succeeded in raising the steamers Crimea, Bessarabia, Odessa, and Elboroz. They have also raised the frigate Kanlevtchi, after incredible efforts. They are now endeavoring to raise the steamer Vladimir, and then will come the turn of the ships-of-the-line Chrabry and Tehesme, as well as several frigates. These vessels were all sunk in the harbor by the Russians to prevent them falling into the hands of the allies during the siege.


Brooklyn Eagle
17 May 1869

The Ships at Sebastopol --Those who are conversant with the details of the Crimean War will remember that on the 23d of September, 1854, three days after the battle of Alma, and three days before the arrival of the British army on the heights above Balaklava, Prince Menchikoff adopted the bold expedient of forming a line of Russian ships-of-war across the entrance to Sebastopol harbor, and sinking them by scuttling. It was apparently a reckless and unprecedented bit of strategy, but it fully answered the intended purpose; for the magnificent English and French fleets were unable throughout the war to make the smallest entry into the harbor, or to approach near enough for any effective bombardment of the fortifications. Again, on the 8th of September, 1855, when the Russians abandoned Sebastopol, they sank all the remaining ships in the harbor, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the besiegers. Well, it is in this quarter that Colonel Gowen has already displayed his ship-raising ingenuity. He say: “When raising the sunken fleet at Sebastopol for the Russian government, I labored under a number of difficulties which can scarcely be overrated; and yet the most perfect success attended my operations, as I then raised and cleared seventy vessels of all sizes, some of which are now in commission.” Comparing Vigo with Sebastopol, he adds: “My soundings in the Bay of Vigo showed a bottom of mud in which the galleons are not more than half buried. When I compare this with the twenty feet of mud, clay, oyster shells, and gravel in which the sunken fleet at Sebastopol was lying, I look forward with the most sanguine expectations to the result of the proposed undertaking. Instead of an open roadstead, as at Sebastopol, the small bay in which the galleons are lying is completely landlocked, so that operations can be carried on in all weathers, and through any season of the year.”

We shall see, therefore, when Neptune can be made to yield up the treasure which, according to repute, he has for a hundred and sixty-seven years retained in his dominions at the bottom of the sea.


History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts
Annals of Lynn-1857 (p. 450)

John E. Gowan, a native of Lynn, arrived at Sebastopol, Russia, June 3, to undertake the raising of the ships sunk in that harbor, during the Crimean War, under a contract with the Russian government. His enterprise was successful, and honors were bestowed upon him.


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