Commissioned 1 January 1931, the Giussano-class light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere (John of the Black Bands) was a sleek warship of the Regia Marina, though not quite up to the same quality as her three sisters.
The 7,000-ton, 555-foot cruiser had a lot of speed– 37 knots– and eight 6-inch guns but had *razor thin* armor (less than an inch at its thickest) as an Achilles heel. To make it worse, the class had virtually no underwater protection at all.
When WWII came, Bande Nere managed to escape serious damage in the Battle of Calabria and follow-up Battle of Cape Spada in 1940 but hit HMAS Sydney in turn, then went on to survive another close call at the Second Battle of Sirte in 1942. As such, she was much luckier than her three sisters– Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto da Giussano, sunk December 1941, by Royal Navy and Dutch destroyers during the Battle of Cape Bon; and Bartolomeo Colleoni, sent to the bottom at Spada.
Her luck ran out on 1 April 1942 when she came across HM Submarine Urge who fired a pair of torpedoes at the Italian cruiser, one of which broke the Bande Nere into two sections, and she sank quickly with the loss of more than half her crew in 1,500m of water some 11 miles from Stromboli. In a cruel bit of karma, Urge, a Britsh U-class submarine was herself lost just three weeks afterward with all hands, most likely near Malta as a result of a mine.
Bande Nere was discovered over the weekend by the now-Marina Militare, and her crown of Savoy clearly seen on a released video.
“Over a seaman’s grave, no flowers grow.”
The Guardian has a great interactive piece on the prolonged phenomena that is the rapid disappearance from the ocean floor of WWII ship wrecks in Indonesia including the battered veterans of the Battle of Java and others.
Fueled by a a booming demand in China for scrap metal, large crane barges have been photographed above wreck sites, often with huge amounts of rusted steel on their decks.
“At the seabed, divers have found ships cut in half. Many have been removed completely, leaving a ship-shaped indent.”
Why all the risk and expense to rob war graves for scrap steel? It’s not just your typical scrap steel.
Archeologists believe the criminals might be turning a profit because the hulls are one of the world’s few remaining deposits of “low-background” metals. Having been made before atomic bomb explosions in 1945 and subsequent nuclear tests, the steel is free of radiation. This makes even small quantities that have survived the saltwater extremely useful for finely calibrated instruments such as Geiger counters, space sensors and medical imaging.
Two days before Hurricane Isaac came ashore, I walked the beaches of South Mississippi taking what I term ‘before’ pictures. You see, I have survived direct hits by Fredrick, Elena, Georges, Katrina, and near misses from Rita, Gustav, Mitch, Dennis, Debbie and others. Its one thing that remains the same in each: visit the beach right before the storm to get one last look in at how it is now– as it may be vastly different on your next visit.
Here we see the Miss Vickie, a 20-25 foot sailboat (boat id number MI6883 BS) that was left adrift along the Mississippi Coast just before Hurricane Isaac. Here she is washed up along the beach in about a foot of water (at low tide). She appeared dry but with a few torn supports on her mast. With the help of a commercial tow service she could have quickly been pulled free, especially at high tide.
Here is the poor Miss Vickie (same ID number) hard aground the day after Isaac on Mississippi Highway 90 about a half mile from where the above picture series was taken. She rolled several times. Her mast is broken. Her hull is shattered along the keel in many places. She will never be moved again except by a bulldozer.
Of course, Isaac will take the wrap, but I think he was framed.