Chickasaw (#241993) (1942-1962), 439-foot 5185-ton steel American flag freighter built in New Jersey in 1942. She was a mass-produced C-2 type cargo transport and served as a U.S. Navy transport, the U.S.S. Thurston, operating in both Europe (Normandy) and the Pacific until 1946. Two years after the war she was sold to the Waterman Steamship Company of Mobile, Alabama, demilitarized and renamed Chickasaw. The vessel was bound for Wilmington, California from Yokohama, Japan when, in a heavy drizzle and dense fog, she ran aground February 7, 1962 on the south side of Santa Rosa Island between Cluster Point and South Point. Her cargo included toys, plywood, dishes and optical supplies, and she carried a crew of 46 plus 4 elderly tourists. Local tug vessels stood by for better weather hoping to free Chickasaw, but they were unsuccessful. As she lay broadside to the beach with her bow facing east, her crew and four passengers were aided in their rescue by the 669th Air Control and Warning Squadron stationed at Johnson’s Lee. where a Coast Guard cutter transferred them to Santa Barbara. The ship’s captain was Emmanuel Petronas. By February 18, 1962 she was officially abandoned, and her wreck has been disintegrating for over half a century. Her salvage rights were purchased for $2500 by Alvin Kidman and his partner, Pete Sliskovitch, and they were able to remove brass, copper, wiring, electric motors and turban pieces.
» Cooluris, Jim California's Northern Channel Islands in Skin Diver 25(10):50-54, October 1976
In the News~
May 11, 1962 [SBNP]: “Sheriff’s deputies probing thefts from grounded ship. Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the theft of cargo and electronic and navigational gear from the freighter SS Chickasaw aground off Santa Rosa Island. A Ventura man identified as a scrap dealer has admitted towing away one of the ship’s lifeboats full of ‘souvenirs’, but said the boat sank in the channel as he headed for Santa Barbara. He denied taking the heavy gear. Deputies today had this warning for souvenir hunters they know are planning to visit the ship, which ran aground in a heavy fog two months ago: ‘It’s a crime to take items from the ship. It’s a crime to come ashore with such souvenirs without declaring them to customs agents who are also investigating the affair. Reed Williams, Long Beach attorney for the ship’s owners, the Waterman Steamship Corp., said a watchman on the island saw the lifeboat being towed away April 27. A check revealed these losses: The ship’s wireless radio and telephone gear, navigational equipment, and the ship’s wheel, together with auto wheels, radios and heaters that had been part of the cargo. The FBI was called into the case. Traced by an anonymous tip, the Ventura man said he and some friends had visited the ship that day and put small souvenirs into the ship’s boat, which was later swamped by high seas. Customs agents got search warrants from U.S. Commissioner Arnold Gowans, a local attorney, and searched the man’s boat here and his home in Ventura. They found no stolen items. The suspect said a man on the island gave him permission to board the Chickasaw, and that the salvage crew had extended an open invitation to take anything. Contacted in Portland, Oregon, officials of the salvage firm, hired by the ship’s owners and insurance underwriters, denied removing the stolen items when they came aboard to salvage the cargo. Deputies said they learned that other persons in addition to the Ventura party and the salvage crew had been to the ship. They plan to question the watchman about other visitors.”