Shipwreck! The Grand Ranger goes down off Cabo Blanco in 1971

U.S.S. Typhoon shipwreck in Costa Rica

The “Ocean Joyce”, a previous name of the Grand Ranger. Photo taken 10-15 years before it wrecked.

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There are many shipwrecks around the Montezuma/Malpais area, and the largest of them is the U.S.S. Typhoon, which, when wrecked off Cabo Blanco National Park in 1971, was known as the “Grand Ranger”, having been renamed the year before.

Map of Cabo Blanco showing the location of the shipwreck: Best Cabo Blanco Park Map

Wrecked in front of Playa Balsitas, the center section is apparently still intact, although since this part of Cabo Blanco isn’t open to the public, I haven’t ever been able to see it myself.

Cabo Blanco Costa Rica Shipwreck

The Grand Ranger shipwreck, off Cabo Blanco. Photo taken in 1991, courtesy of Airphotona.

The life and death of the U.S.S. Typhoon

Built by the Moore Dry Dock company, the Grand Ranger was originally launched on February 28, 1943 in Oakland, California for the U.S. Navy, and called the U.S.S. Typhoon. It was quite large. It displaced 9150 tons, was 460 feet long (140 meters) and 63 feet (19.2 meters) wide. It was a C2-type (C2-S-B1) Troop Transport ship and served in the Pacific Ocean, taking troops and supplies between California, Pearl Harbor, and Pacific Island destinations during the war.

A selection of soldiers and sailors who were transported by the U.S.S. Typhoon during World War II

The ship is mentioned in the war journals of many sailors and soldiers, a few of which are shown in the above photograph, and whose memoirs are linked to their names:

Jack Lucas – U.S. Marines Medal of Honor winner (read more in the next section).
Harry “Doc” Sage – Ship’s doctor on the Typhoon during World War II
Gene Elmer Kircher U.S. Marines – Earned a purple heart at the battle of Iwo Jima
Thomas V Hannigan, Jr – U.S. Navy demolitions Expert

The Transport of Jack Lucas

The most famous passenger to have sailed on this ship was probably Jack Lucas, the youngest U.S. Marine to ever win the U.S. Medal of Honor. Jack Lucas tried to join the U.S. Marines at age 13, after becoming infuriated by the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor and the massacre of Nanking in China before that. In his memoir, he writes “My rage against the Japanese escalated in me to such a fever pitch, I could not concentrate on anything other than how to scheme my way into the Marine Corps.” At age 14, he was 5’8″ and weighed 180 pounds, and his mother and step-father allowed him to enlist, signing a document declaring that he was 17 years old, By age 15, he was already in combat. His story is told in a great book, available on for US$4.94 here:

Indestructible: The Unforgettable Story of a Marine Hero at the Battle of Iwo Jima

C2-type cargo ship, moments before running aground at Cabo Blanco

After World War II

In 1948, the ship was sold and renamed “Mobilian”, and refitted for civilian use as a cargo vessel. It was sold and renamed several times, as shown here:

1943 U.S.S. Typhoon
1948 Mobilian
1955 Ocean Joyce
1961 Overseas Joyce
1965 Sapphire Sandy
1967 Richwood
1970 Grand Ranger

A year after being renamed as the Grand Ranger, the ship ran around at Cabo Blanco and was abandoned, and has now become the home of sharks, groupers, snappers, and thousands of other fish.

How to Scuba Dive the Grand Ranger Shipwreck

Sorry but unfortunately you probably can’t! It’s laying inside the protected waters of the Cabo Blanco national marine reserve, and no one is allowed there without a permit. And they don’t issue permits except under very special circumstances. If you go during the day, the park rangers may shoot at the water near you to scare you off, which they once did to a friend of mine who was trying to scuba dive illegally in the park’s protected zone. They may accidentally hit you, and then one of the sharks that live in the wreck will eat you after tasting your blood.

So, you have two options… bring a boat and go illegally at night, risking another shipwreck, or you can find and befriend a Costa Rican marine biologist who can find a reason to be there, get a permit to dive there, and take you with him or her.

By Geoffrey McCabe

Note: This is a work in progress. I’ve been researching on the internet about the history of this shipwreck, but some of the story is missing. Why did it run around? Daytime or night? What was it transporting? If anyone knows any new details, has underwater photos of the wreck, or more recent photos, please let me know. I also would love some help translating this into Spanish. Thanks!

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