The Liberty 70 Project: The Liberty ship SS James Eagan Layne
March 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the US Liberty ship SS James Eagan Layne. The ship was beached and sank in Whitsand Bay near Plymouth, England, in March 1945 after being torpedoed off the Eddystone reef.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Liberty 70 project aims to document all aspects of the life of this vessel - wartime transport, shipwreck, commercial salvage, the classic UK wreck dive and artificial reef:
The Liberty 70 project will record the history of the ship from the time the keel was laid in the shipyard in New Orleans to the present day. The story includes the part she played in the Battle of the Atlantic, her sinking by a U-boat and early attempts at salvage.
The James Eagan Layne is thought to be the most dived wreck in the UK. It has been an attraction for visiting divers since the beginning of sport diving and for many divers of all generations this ship was their first experience of wreck diving. One aspect of the Liberty 70 project is to collect stories about your first or favourite dives on this wreck.
The ship is falling apart under the action of waves and currents so may not remain standing for many more years to come. The Liberty 70 project aims to record the wreck as it is today in a detailed site plan and as a 3D computer model.
The wreck of the James Eagan Layne lies on a flat sandy seabed so the wreck has become a haven for fish and other marine life. The Liberty 70 project will investigate what varied and interesting marine life lives in and around the ship.
What's in a Name?
Often known by divers as the JEL or the Layne, the name of this ship is often spelled James Egan Layne or even the James Egan Lane, but her real name is the S.S.James Eagan Layne.
The results of this history project will be published in a book and a web site about the James Eagan Layne, with other events planned for the anniversary in 2015. The work is a community project being done by a large team of researchers, divers, surveyors, VR specialists and archaeologists including local diving groups and organisations, teams from Plymouth University, Oxford University and the University of Birmingham.
If you would like to help with this project then please
The Liberty 70 Project is partnered with the US National WWII Museum in New Orleans