Coast Guard vessel

The Coast Guard confirms that a wreck discovered at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by the Bureau of Ocean Management is the fishing vessel Katmai, Dec. 2012. The Katmai has been missing since 1972. (Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets)

A vessel that went missing more than 40 years ago while sailing from its shipyard to Kodiak has been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced March 22 that the fishing vessel Katmai has been found underwater 200 miles off the coast of Pascagoula, Miss. at a depth of 8,920 feet. The 45-foot fishing vessel went missing on Feb. 18, 1972.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute research vessel Falkor found the Katmai during a project with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The research vessel was doing sonar and hydrographic surveys to look for oil pockets.

During one of the surveys, the Falkor’s crew found an anomaly on the ocean bottom, and sent an underwater robot to investigate. They reported the discovery of the vessel to the Coast Guard, which dug up the cold case.

Oskar Joos, his wife, eight-year-old child and deckhand Clinton Hollevoet were onboard the vessel when it departed Mobile, Ala. for Alaska in 1972. Joos had the Katmai constructed that same year by Bender Ship Building in Mobile but had already changed the boat’s home port to reflect its destination: Kodiak.

“I think the person was going to move up there to go take up fishing,” said Coast Guard spokesperson Lt. Michael Clausen with Coast Guard Sector Mobile. “They changed (the home port) to Kodiak in preparation for the move, but never made it.”

When the vessel initially went missing, the Coast Guard launched an investigation and did a search and rescue case to try and locate the vessel, but found nothing. The vessel was presumed to have sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, and neither Joos nor his family were ever found.

“It’s in almost 9,000 feet of water,” Clausen said. “Back then they didn't have remote operation vehicles. Of course, finding a 45-foot boat in the ocean that sunk would be quite difficult.”

The Coast Guard was not able to determine the reason the fishing vessel sank, but the preliminary consensus was that it was due to rough weather.

Clausen said it’s unusual to find a sunken vessel, let alone one that is identifiable. The Katmai still had paint on it, and the name and home port name were still visible.

“If it was to sink in anything other than the 9,000 feet of water, the marine life would have eaten the boat away significantly, but because it was in that depth, it was very well preserved,” Clausen said.

The Coast Guard notified the surviving family members, who are currently living in Switzerland, of the discovery. The family members have elected not to do anything at this time.

“We provided them pictures, video and the location so if they ever want to go back out there they could do something,” Clausen said.

The Coast Guard has closed the cold case, and no further action will be taken.

Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at nklauss@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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