Sophie

ID5600337 (not IMO)
Call SignМ.Т.В.Ч.
TypeCargo, Steam coaster
DWT614
Length63.40m
Beam9.45m
Draft3.65m
Crew?
Cargo700 tons of coal
BuilderStabilimento Tecnico Triestino, Austria-Hungary
FlagFrench
Sink dateSeptember 16, 1921
Sink reasonmine explosion
Survivorsall
CoordinatesN44 03.612 E028 52.569
Depth45m

Sophie was built at Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, in 1891, as yard number 270. The ship had two screws and maximum speed of 10kts. The initial name of the vessel was Trud, sailing under Russian flag (registered in Rostoff, number 1099), and it was owned by J.S. Koschkine. During its first years (1892-1893), it sailed on the Azov and Black Sea, having its home port in Batumi.

In 1894, Georgii Iakovlevich Sedov (Georgy Sedov), a Russian arctic explorer, got his first job as a sailor aboard Trud, under the command of captain N.P. Mussuri. He sailed on it during the summer and autumn, on the Azov Sea and Black Sea. In two months, Georgy Sedov became a helmsman. When it was time to leave, he received from the captain a letter of recommendation for the head of the navigation school, together with good reviews for his work, and 127 roubles as a salary. He returned aboard Trud in the summer of 1895, during the holiday.

In 1909, the owner went bankrupt and the ship was bought by A.A. Theofani, from Faliron Han 18, Galata, Constantinople, but remained registered in Rostoff.

On March 21, 1914, Trud collided with the smaller steamer “Ekaterina Velikaya”. After the collision, “Ekaterina Velikaya” went to the bottom, but its crew was saved.

The vessel was commandeered by the Russian Red Army on October 28, 1916, under the name T-226 (later T-249, since January 10, 1917, and then T-349 in 1918). It was equipped with a 45mm cannon.

During the First World War, on April 11, 1918, the ship was captured as a prize by the German submarine UC-23. It was taken abroad, and later returned at the end of the year to the Theofani family.

In 1920, the vessel was renamed Sophie and registered in Marseilles, under French flag, by the same owner (A.A. Theofani)

On September 16, 1921, at 02:00, while en-route from Zonguldak to Braila, with a cargo of 700 tons of coal, the vessel struck a mine in the Black Sea, and sunk at 14 miles from Constanta. The crew escaped unharmed and landed in Constanta.

The wreck was discovered by Mircea Popa / Respiro Underwater Research Society, on August 12, 2010. They called her “Drake's ship” because on that day they had onboard a diver named Simon Drake (a descendant of sir Francis Drake) and they considered this to be a nice nickname for the wreck.

Mircea Popa discovered a compass manufactured in Ukraine, and a dish marked “Boch F89 LaLouviere, Made in Belgium”. He had contacted the manufacturer, wich is still on the market today, and they answered: “The only information i can give is that is been produced around 1880. If you need more information you could contact a specialist at Musée Royal de Mariemont”.

After the initial announcement, Harry Bakker proposed the identity of General Turner, which seemed plausible, while Mircea Popa continued to call her “Drake's ship”.

When I have started to work on this website, I became obsessed with locating a photo of the General Turner. I have discovered that the vessel had three other sisters (General Currie, General Morrison, and General Williams). In the end, I have located a good photo of General Williams, but it didn't look like the wreck at all. Also, the news of the time stated that General Turner sunk 45 miles of Cape Kaliakra, which was a little strange in my mind (why to say 45 miles from Kaliakra instead of something like near Constanta?). The cargo of General Turner during its last voyage was grain and cattle, so cow skeletons should be eventually found in its holds.

Searching the archives, I have found the report about another vessel sunk in the same year as General Turner. The name was Sophie, and it sunk 14 miles from Constanta. My initial research shown that it was built in 1891 (older than General Turner, which was built in 1919). This gave me hope, as the rounded features of the wreck resembled in my mind an older ship. In the end, I had no luck in locating a photo of Sophie. So I have turned my research towards another ship, which had a good chance to be its sister. Energia was ordered by the same J.S. Koschkine, and it was built also at Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, in 1891, as keel number 269. The measurements of Energia and Trud were almost identical (in one registry it is shown as having 609 tons, compared to Trud's 622 tons in the same registry, but in the yard records, both were listed at 614).

Energia's history was longer and gave me some hope I can locate a photo. Owned initially by J.S. Koschkine, it was transferred to A.A. Theofani in the same year as Sophie (1909). In 1913 the owner changed to W.S. Theofani. Then, in 1916, the vessel was commandeered by the Russian Red Army, and it was transformed in the minesweeper T-228. Later, in 1917 the boat became T-238 (T-328 according to another source), then in 1918 it was captured by the German Navy and renamed FD-24. After the war, the vessel returned to W.S. Theofani and renamed back Energia. In 1923, it was purchased by D. Vretos and registered in Braila, as Galeik. In 1925 it was acquired by L. Hayman, who renamed it Ottoka and kept the registration port of Braila. Finally, in 1927, it was sold to the National Navigation Company of Egypt, and renamed for the last time Syria. It sunk on June 8, 1928, near Cape Drepanum, while carrying timber from Galati to Salonic. After many efforts, searching both Italian, Russian and Egyptian web sites and forums, somebody helped me with a scan of Energia from an Italian book. The photo shown many similarities between the bow of Energia and that of the wreck, but also a big difference in the bridge position and aft part.

Searching more, on Russian forums, I was able to find another photo of Energia, from the collection of the late Mr Boris Lemachko (the big photo at the beginning of the story), taken in Sevastopol, in 1914. This photo shows a completely different configuration of the bridge and deck.

According to another source, there is a report in Russian Naval Archives, written by the commander of T-228 (Energia), when the vessel was commandeered by the military. This drawing matches the Russian photo pretty well, and also provides some dimensions to check during the next dives. Same source considers that the presumed photo of Energia from the Italian book is a mistake made initially by the Russian magazine Gangut, and propagated later in various places. There is also a small possibility that the vessel was reconfigured at some moment but I have failed to find any evidence of a reconstruction.

The identification of the wreck as Sophie fits very well what we know about the wreck:

  • position where it was found matches the historical information
  • wreck size is identical to the dimensions of Sophie
  • makes sense to have an Ukrainian compass on board
  • having the home port of Marseilles during the last years, a Belgian dish would have been easily obtained by the crew
  • i was unable to find any other record about the sinking of a vessel of similar size.

The ship lies upright at a depth of 45 meters. The stern is buried in the sand, while the bow is exposed. The wreck rounded shapes reveal the grace of an old ship. Another nice feature is the anchor at the bow.

A video filmed by Mircea Popa/Respiro: and a newer video by the same author: