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Local News

A Missing Vessel, Seven Lives Lost and 50 Years of Mystery

Commemoration marks anniversary of Marie's disappearance on secret Raytheon mission in Santa Barbara Channel

At sunrise on June 7, 1960, a converted landing craft called the Marie departed Santa Barbara Harbor with seven men aboard, bound for Santa Cruz Island. The boat was never to be seen again.

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum's Marie Remembered exhibit is on display through June 21.
The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’s Marie Remembered exhibit is on display through June 21. (Newton-Terres family photo)

After numerous days of searching the Santa Barbara Channel, four bodies were recovered. But 50 years later, what happened to the vanished vessel remains a mystery.

On board were Raytheon engineers Niel Beardsley, Harold “Hal” Mackie Jr., James “Jim” Russell and Diego “Jim” S. Terres Jr., who reportedly were to test classified underwater infrared communication equipment as part of a defense contract. They were accompanied by the boat’s captain, H. James “Jim” McCaffrey; crew member L. Dale Howell; and a guest, Paul T. Lovette.

The search for the vessel began on June 9, 1960. By air and sea, the U.S. Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy and scores of private vessels covered 2,075 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. By June 12, four bodies — identified as Howell, Lovette, Mackie and Russell — had been recovered. The bodies of Beardsley, McCaffrey and Terres were never found.

The mystery and tragedy surrounding the Marie’s disappearance and the lost lives of those aboard were felt even more by the Santa Barbara community, as four of the men were native sons. They each had careers in engineering and/or military service that were securely rooted locally.

Four of the men were Santa Barbara High graduates: Mackie (Class of 1944), Howell (‘46), Terres (‘48) and McCaffrey (‘49). Mackie also graduated from UCSB in 1953 and was active in the community. After high school, Howell joined the Army and was stationed in Point Barrow, Alaska. Terres graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1959 and served in the Navy during the Korean War. McCaffrey also attended UCSB, then fought in the Army in Korea.

Dale Howell and Jim Terres show off the bounty from one of their lobster fishing excursions.
Dale Howell, left, and Jim Terres show off the bounty from one of their lobster fishing excursions. (Newton-Terres family photo)

Meanwhile, Beardsley had been a scientist on the Manhattan Project as well as an innovator of the use of red-cell physics with infrared technology. Russell was a New York native who moved to Los Angeles as a child and attended UC Berkeley.

On the 50th anniversary of the disappearance, a commemoration for the seven men was held at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on Friday. The event was organized by Terres’ daughter, Teresa Newton-Terres.

In-depth research conducted by Newton-Terres has brought the intriguing story into the open. In addition to digging into the National Archives in Washington and Coast Guard archives in California, Maryland and Washington, Newton-Terres has interviewed family members, friends and colleagues who were able to provide fist-person information regarding the mystery.

The commemoration continues at sunrise Sunday with a wreath-laying ceremony at sea. Beginning Monday and continuing through June 21, an interactive, multimedia exhibit — Marie Remembered: Seven Men Lost at Sea Expanding the Frontiers of Infrared — is on display at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way.

Noozhawk intern Michael Goldsholl will be a sophomore at Loyola Marymount University in the fall. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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