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New Jersey Scuba Diving

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New Jersey Scuba Diving

Portholes

porthole diagramPortholes are used to let light and air into a ship. They are usually constructed of brass for corrosion resistance, which makes them highly desirable as collector's items. The drawing at right shows all the major parts:

I have heard stories from the "old days" about coming up from a dive with as many portholes as you could lift, but the truth is that nowadays portholes are a rarity. That's not to say that they are impossible to find, though, as shifting sands and collapsing wreckage reveal hidden ones from time to time.

Often, if you do find one, the swing plate will have already been removed by some prior diver who couldn't get the backing plate loose. This usually requires hammer, chisel, and a set of wrenches that you don't mind sacrificing to the salt water.

porthole
A complete porthole, still in use in an old ship. It is propped open on the upper dogs.

shipwreck Oregon porthole
A perfectly intact porthole on the Oregon. There are rows of these still on the wreck, but the fasteners are all on the other side. They're going to be there for a long time.

shipwreck Emerald porthole
This small but complete specimen was recovered from the Emerald in 2000. As with most portholes, there is no deadlight, that part being usually found only on warships.

shipwreck SS Carolina porthole
In deeper waters where the wrecks have not been so plundered, portholes are more common, like this one from the Carolina, taken from a depth of 260 ft.


Deck Light

deck-light
This glass deck-light, or dead-light, was recovered from the Sea Girt Wreck in 2000, the second of such known.

deck-lightThese glass prisms were mounted in the deck or sides of vessels to illuminate the interior with outside light. In modern times, the term dead-light refers to any non-opening window in a vessel. More commonly, though, the term refers to something else entirely: the metal backing plate of a porthole, which can be used to block illumination, or seal up the opening in case the glass breaks.

On an old sailing ship, a deck light like this would be mounted in a watertight frame through the deck, with the pointed end down, to disperse sunlight within. At least during the day, this would save the expense and danger of burning oil lamps or candles to light the ship. Once electric lights came into use, deck lights were no longer necessary, so they are only found on older wrecks.

Something similar but not nearly as romantic can be found in the artificial reefs, where many of the tanks and APCs still have the glass prism periscopes used by the driver to see outside the vehicle when his hatch is closed. With a little work, these can often be worked loose.

deck-light
When cleaned up, the old deck light above will resemble these,
from the collection of Capt. Steve Nagiewicz. Nice paperweights.

deck-light
Deck light from the Emerald


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Disclaimer:

I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.

Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
unless otherwise noted

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