Shipwreck Hunter to Share Adventures

USF Graduate Turned Shipwreck Hunter to Share Adventures in April 20 Talk



By Vickie Chachere


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 13, 2010) – David Mearns, a 1986 master’s degree graduate from USF’s College of Marine Science who has gone on to become known as one of the world’s most renowned shipwreck hunters, will share the inside story of more than 20 famed finds of lost ships, from 16h Century caravel that was part of Vasco de Gama’s fleet to some of the great maritime tragedies of World War II.


Mearns will appear at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20, at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 1st Street S., in St. Petersburg. The event and parking is free and open to the public.


Mearns, the president of Bluewater Recoveries, Ltd., most recently led the expedition that found the wreckage of the AHS Centaur, an Australian hospital ship which was sunk by a Japanese submarine in May 1943 off the coast of Queensland. Of the 332 doctors, nurses and wounded soldiers and sailors aboard, 268 perished.


The 2009 discovery ended a 66-year quest by families of those who were lost and Australian government officials.  But the Centaur is just the latest find to bring Mearns worldwide acclaim.


In 2001, Mearns lead teams to discover the wreckage of the HMS Hood, the British warship lost in the epic battle with the Nazi ship Bismarck . Mearns and his team – using extensive research, documents, eyewitness accounts and the most advanced technology available to pinpoint the ships’ locations - overcame the challenges of locating the shipwrecks in 3,000 feet of water in the Denmark Strait.


His efforts to locate the ships is the basis for the PBS documentary “Hunt for the Hood” and the subject of the 2002 book, “Hood and Bismarck.”


Yet Mearns considers the 2008 discovery of the HMAS Sydney II shipwreck his greatest discovery. It took six years and an international effort to locate the warship, which had been the pride of Australia when it sank in 1941 after an encounter with a German vessel disguised as a merchant ship, leaving a nation grieving the 654 men lost and with unanswered questions which persisted for decades.


Mearns’ documented the expedition in his second book, The Search for Sydney, which immediately became a top seller in Australia.


His other finds include the Lucona, a cargo ship at the centre of a sensational European murder trial;  the Derbyshire, which was lost with all hands which led to new rules covering survivability and structural requirements for bulk carriers; and the Esmeralda, a Portuguese Nau in the fleet of Vasco da Gama that is the oldest colonial wreck ever found


Those wishing to attend the talk can RSVP by calling (727) 553-1638 or by email at




The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.