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Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago

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Tym-Barge PDF Print E-mail

Over a decade ago, divers started reporting seeing a large, mysterious, unidentified object lying in Chicago's Turning Basin (now Dusable Harbor), but nobody really explored it until the Autumn of 1998.

The Illinois DNR, responding to a court order to stop the "leaking" of water from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River, elected to seal off the Basin from the river turning it into a harbor  and discovered that in doing so, they would have to deal with this mysterious object... in one way or another. They contacted the UASC and asked that we get involved in identifying the object and moving it out of the construction team's way.

The UASC contacted the Chicago Tribune and on January 25th, a feature story appeared on the front page soliciting information regarding the "object". CNN, Fox and several other news outlets picked up the story both locally and nationally and over 250 responses poured in "guessing" at what the object could be. It was less than two weeks later when the truth finally emerged. Mr. Michael Tym, a Chicago financial advisor, called the UASC to say, "My father built that thing and I have documents to prove it and identify it!".

The object in question, since referred to as the "TymBarge", was built by Mr. Tym's father, Michael Tym Sr. It was a small scale prototype (30'x10') of a semi-submersible liquid hauling barge. It was built in November, 1942. Mr. Tym Sr's idea was to build these tankers of wood (a nonstrategic material in those war years) and intended them to be drawn behind ships going to the European theater of operations to increase our capacity of carrying fuel for the war effort.

As the accompanying photos show, the Navy tested the TymBarge in Lake Michigan (filling it with water for the test) on November 20, 1942. Their report clearly indicates that the TymBarge performed exactly as expected and while they liked it, orders for more of them never came. The prototype was tied up to the South wall of the Turning Basin and forgotten. It eventually sank and had laid there for 57 years.

On May 2, 1999, the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago relocated it in 42' of water, near the wreck of the unidentified "South Tug" (Loran 33360.8 x 50086.7)   Once on the South Tug divers can follow the yellow 3/4" poly line south 85 feet to the barge. Both the South Tug and the Tym-Barge are bouyed.

"The barge is rigidly designed and strongly fabricated. No distortion was apparent due to its being lifted by chains attached to the extreme ends. Throughout the towing tests little, if any, water splashed out ... indicating fairly steady cargo conditions within." "The circular wooden frames forming part of the structure undoubtedly aid in preventing surging of a liquid cargo..." "At speeds of 10 to 12 miles per hour, the bow wave is negligible."

.. The report concludes ..

 
 
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