The Laertes was laid down at the Taikoo Dockyard and Engine Company in Hong Kong to help meet the demand for merchant freighters that occurred upon the end of the First World War. At 424 feet in length and 52 feet in breadth, the Laertes possessed a single 413 horsepower triple expansion engine that turned a single screw, pushing the vessel along at a maximum speed of almost 14 knots. In April of 1942, the Laertes loaded her 5,230-ton cargo of war material that was destined for Bombay, India, to support the effort against the advancing Japanese military machine in Indochina. Included in the shipment were 3 airplanes, 17 medium tanks, and 20 trucks, all stowed tightly in her cargo holds and packed in shipping containers that were secured to the deck.
At approximately 5:00 a.m. on May 3 a torpedo from the U-109 smashed into the port bow quarter of the Dutch ship. Two other torpedoes would also impact the freighter shortly thereafter. Forty-eight out of the crew of sixty-six survived the incident.
Lying approximately 9 miles off the Cape Canaveral light in 60 feet of water, the wreck of the Laertes, also known locally as the “Dutch Wreck,” covers an expansive area. While the wreck was extensively blasted and wire-dragged, the current disposition of the wreck is still generally articulated. The wreck lies in a SW-NE orientation. The eroded remains of several trucks can be observed as well, though they generally consist of only tires, radiators, and engine blocks. The forward and aft masts lie broken on either side of the wreck. The large boilers of the freighter rise 15 feet off the bottom and provide a good landmark when investigating the wreck site. The starboard boiler remains in line with the vessel while the port boiler has been knocked askew. Aft of the boilers, the debris extends roughly 50 feet to either side. Visibility on the wreck of the Laertes fluctuates drastically due to its proximity of Cape Canaveral; visibility generally averages 20 feet.
Lat: 28 28.715 N
Long: 80 21.932 W
Depth of wreck
Size of wreck
Length: 424 feet
Beam: 52 feet