USS H-1 was the lead ship of her class of submarine in the United States Navy. She was originally dubbed Seawolf. She was first laid down by the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, California, and renamed H-1 on November 11, 1911. She was commissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard on December 1, 1913 with Lieutenant Henry M. Jensen in command.
The H-1 was part of the Torpedo Flotilla 2, Pacific Fleet and operated along the west coast of San Pedro, California. Her travels also involved sailing the coast from Los Angeles, California to lower British Columbia for various exercises and patrols that often involved her sister ships, H-2 and H-3.
After reaching New London, Connecticut on November 8th 1917 she remained based there until the end of World War I where she patrolled Long Island Sound. Her patrols at this time frequently involved having officer students from the submarine school on board.
Santa Margarita Island
Departing from the company of her sister ships on March 12, 1920, H-1 made her way up the coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, when she ran aground on a shoal located off Santa Margarita Island. Unfortunately, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander James R. Webb, as well as four other men, died trying to reach the shore. On the morning of March 24th, the vessel Vestal pulled H-1 off of the rocks but within 45 minutes the submarine sank in 50 feet of water. Any further salvage efforts were abandoned and her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on April 12, 1920. She was eventually sold for scrap later that year in June, but never recovered. The sub was rediscovered in 1992.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially throughout conflicts of the last century, submarines also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. However, these risks extend beyond the inherent dangers that existed while operating the vessels during military conflicts. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were also common aboard submarines because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Furthermore, the enclosed environment of submarines put servicemen at an even higher risk of exposure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with or served on submarines should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.