Asbury Park Press 09/2/07
BY KIRK MOORE
HIGHLANDS - After he'd cleared away the sand and silt, Joe Anthony knew they were on more than just a pile of slate shingles when he saw Gary Filippone's eyes go wide behind his mask. Buried within the shingles were china tableware - and not just fragments, like one glint of white stoneware that had attracted the divers to a spot on the shipwreck. There were stacks and stacks of unbroken teacups and saucers, plates and platters, some as perfect as the day they were crated by an English exporter 175 years before.
For five years a group of divers here have quietly excavated and documented the wreck of the Aurora, an American merchant ship that went down close to the Sandy Hook beach in a gale on Nov. 7, 1827. Now they're looking to find permanent homes for their collection, with, they hope, the Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook and the Twin Lights museum in Highlands. "The artifacts are going to get to a museum. I'd like to set up their museum out there at Sandy Hook with this stuff, if they'd have it," said Anthony, of Highlands. These artifacts, he said, "are not going to be sold. They belong to the wreck."
The survival of the ship's remains and its cargo are remarkable, on a section of the sea floor scoured daily by tides pouring out of New York Harbor and often raked by storms that have threatened to batter through Sandy Hook itself. It was that pile of slate, quarried in Wales and bound for New York City rooftops, that ensured the Aurora would be the most unusual wreck on this coast, the divers say. "Nothing like this has ever been found in New Jersey," said Filippone, of Highlands. "All this thing is missing is gold bars."
What the divers did find was a time capsule of commerce and technology from the 1820s. "It was right on the historical edge, between one-of-a-kind craftsmanship and mass production," said diver Ken Harber of the Navesink section of Middletown. "It was like Home Depot: shingles, tools, hardware, dishes." Some 2,800 to 3,000 recovered artifacts include Staffordshire china by the famed Adams pottery makers of England, including patterns called Lady's Garden and Gables Farm that are sought by collectors today, Anthony said. There's a third, unidentified pattern in the haul, too. Doorknob and lock sets, some still wrapped in paper, barrels of hardware, tools by the Marples family company of Sheffield, England, also were extracted from the hold. "During this time, England was sending over many, many manufactured goods," said researcher Dan Lieb of the New Jersey Historical Divers Association, who helped the Highlands divers identify the Aurora wreck and research its history. "The Industrial Revolution was getting revved up, and America just couldn't make everything it needed."
The rarest finds were a sea captain's navigation instruments - a chronometer or navigational clock, and an octant, forerunner of the sextant that navigators use to calculate longitude and their position at sea. "It was the heart of the vessel's navigation system," Lieb said. Finding an octant is a career jackpot for any wreck diver, partly because captains often took their prized instruments before abandoning ship. The Aurora octant is in exceptional condition with its lens frames, eyepiece and whalebone ivory scales intact.
Research revealed there were two captains from the same shipping company on the Aurora's final voyage, Harber said. The octant probably was packed by the man along for a ride, he added. "We think it was part of the other captain's gear. He was heading for his next gig. He soon after took a ship out of Philadelphia." Both the Aurora's command captain, John Taubman, and his colleague, Charles A. Hearn, made it off the Aurora alive, with about 45 passengers and crew who rowed small boats through the furious storm to stagger ashore on Sandy Hook. Six sailors who tried to ride it out on the grounded ship were drowned or battered to death by surf. Hearn himself died at sea, trying to bring a ship past Cape Horn at the tip of South America in 1846, according to the divers' research.
"The New Jersey coast at one point in the 1800s was considered to be one of the worst passages in the world," Lieb said. "Insurers charged higher rates for ships going there. Sometimes they wouldn't cover it, and said, "If you go there, you're on your own.' "
Highlands researcher Cassandra Stafford helped the divers track down newspaper accounts of the Aurora's loss published in the Maryland Gazette and in a New York City publication. They say Taubman had loaded the ship and sailed from Liverpool on Sept. 24, 1827, and arrived off Sandy Hook six weeks later, the evening before the storm struck. On the next Wednesday morning, "the wind (was) blowing a violent gale from east- to east-southeast with a heavy rain and thick fog," the Maryland Gazette story recounted. "The vessel being in imminent danger, Capt. Taubman cut away his three masts, and let go both anchors, to prevent her from going ashore, but in vain she struck about 5 miles south of Sandy Hook."
Taubman was able to hold a position at anchor until around 5 p.m., when on a falling tide the Aurora struck bottom, breaking some of its planks below the water line. Taubman ordered 51 passengers and crew to get into the ship's two small boats to attempt a row through the thundering surf, but six sailors opted to take their chances staying with the ship. All of the others landed safely and were given shelter in the Highlands area, the divers say. According to the New York newspaper account, around 2 a.m. the following day the storm had subsided and local watermen set out in a small boat to recover the other six seamen. They found "four had been washed overboard, and the bodies of two men attached to the tattered rail, shockingly mangled and their very clothes washed away by the violence of the waves," the New York report stated.
"This boat was seriously built. It was double-planked oak. With that load of Welsh slate, it pounded right into the bottom and the sand filled it in," Harber said. More than a century after Aurora sank and was forgotten, local anglers knew it only as a hot spot for catching fish. In summer 2002, Gary Filippone went down to take a look.
Scientists say the Hudson River plume that shoots out of the harbor every day often creates stratified layers in the ocean water off Sandy Hook. Filippone remembers swimming down through murky brown that first day, before breaking into clear water. Below he saw the slate pile. "It opened up like a courtyard," he recalled. "It was beautiful." In July 2002, Filippone was back with Anthony, and they began calling the spot the Shingle Wreck. "People have been fishing on this pile of slate forever. We found sinkers that are 50 years old," Anthony said.
Anthony dives with an underwater scooter, a hand-held, battery-powered motor and propeller that's as useful for blowing silt off a wreck as it is for towing a diver. After Filippone located the stoneware fragment, Anthony aimed his scooter's propeller down at the slates. "He and I are on top of the slate pile, and I see his eyes go wide," Anthony recalled, still grinning at the almost ludicrous chances of such a find. They had located a trove of china inside the 55-foot long, 26-foot wide slate pile. "It was stacked inside the slate. That's how it survived." There was so much tableware the divers used milk crates hoisted by inflated air bags to get it all to the surface. They kept closed-mouthed about their project. "I said, "We can't let this get out of control,' " Filippone said.
They sweated out close calls, once finding a beach replenishment sand dredge anchored over the wreck, and another time diving amid fishermen drifting for summer flounder. "I was down there with hundreds of hooks in the water," Filippone said with a laugh. But they didn't tell anyone for fear of setting off a rush of intruders who would clean out the wreck. In time, the divers would learn the history of the Aurora - a young ship at the time of its death, built in Bath, Maine, in 1824 as a full-rigged, three-masted ship 106 feet long and 22 feet wide. Some of the hardware they recovered was stamped by an import company that had been in business for only two years in the mid-1820s, and some china indicated a similar time frame. But the artifact clues stopped there.
"This ship was from Bath. But it threw us for a loop. To this day, we haven't found anything American on the ship. Everything was British, except for a wine bottle seal, which was French," Harber said. "They weren't able to come up with a single candidate," said Lieb, whom Filippone approached three years ago for help in identifying the wreck. But the divers had found an early piece of evidence - an iron knee brace, a connector for ship's ribs that was characteristic of Maine-built ships of the period, Lieb said. Within weeks, a search of records named the Aurora as a possibility. The final proofs were tiny: captain's stamps, used to put official company impresses on letters and documents. The divers had found two, one with the letters JT for John Taubman, and C.H. Hearn for the ill-fated Hearn. "That clinched it," Lieb said.
They learned the Aurora had been owned by a shipping company called the Kermit Line that was very active in that early Industrial Revolution trade. Filippone has friends with a family home in Florida, and he gave them a china set to bring to an Antiques Roadshow there, the traveling antiques appraisal that's seen on public television. An appraiser was impressed by one Aurora piece. "Your family must have taken very good care of it over the years," he said. "It was found at the bottom of the ocean," they told him. There's no windfall fortune to be had from all that china, Anthony said. One thing the divers learned is how much the market for antique Staffordshire ware values perfection above all else, even a good shipwreck story.
Beyond all the pretty blue plates, the divers' most tantalizing find was a rather nondescript medallion - a cheap unofficial medal, really, that was given to veterans of the Battle of Trafalgar, fought in 1805. The British Admiral Lord Nelson's victory over a combined French and Spanish fleet settled the sea power side of the Napoleonic wars, and the medallion likely belonged to one of the Aurora's older sailors, the divers say.
On that last trip across the Atlantic, life on board the Aurora would have been not unlike the scenes in the Russell Crowe film "Master and Commander," with its depiction of early 19th-century life at sea, said diver John Kohnow of Yardley, Pa. "When you see "Master and Commander,' in those scenes where they're eating in the captain's quarters, you see the platter racks," Kohnow said, hefting one stoneware piece molded in England and fit for a roast bird or beef. "When Russell Crowe is showing the younger officers how to navigate, it's an octant they're using."
From their docks and houses in Highlands, the divers can look out to Sandy Hook and easily imagine the Aurora jammed into the shoals. Filippone said their investigation revealed something else: "A lot of times, you find more adventure in your own backyard than traveling around the world."
Parknook, high and dry somewhere, rigged as a bark rather than a barge
The Parknook was an iron barque built by the Whitehaven Shipbuilding Company at Whitehaven in June 1876. She was owned by David Borrowdale of Whitehaven, and her first voyage was from Whitehaven to San Francisco with a coal cargo, under the command of Capt. Richard Thompson. In 1887 the Parknook carried emigrants to Australia.
The Parknook was sold to Norwegian owners by 1898, and by 1927 was registered at New York, renamed Cecilia M. Dunlap. She entered the coastal trade on the Atlantic seaboard, and subsequently was converted to a schooner barge. She foundered on the 12th September 1931 in 60 feet of water during heavy seas, whilst under tow from Pennsylvania to New Jersey with about 10,000 barrels of oil as cargo.
Steam condenser recovered from the Cecilia Dunlap
The collapsed condition of this unit is due to either relatively cold ocean water coming into contact with the unit still hot from operation, or from the demolition process when explosives were used to clear the wreck, eliminating it as a navigational hazard.
This medium-sized crane barge sank under tow in March 2004. The barge is upside-down, but propped up at a 30 degree angle by the crane, rising 30 feet off the bottom at the highest point. The crane is a large rotating affair that is permanently mounted on the barge. It is not the crumpled arm of the crane that supports the hull, but the central cab, so the wreck is stable, and it is safe to explore the cavernous dark space below. The bottom is coarse sand and pea gravel. Eventually the wreck will crush flat, but that will probably take several years, and until then this is a fun and interesting site. Big eels, Sea Bass, and even one or two lobsters can be found here.
This wreck is named for the large amount of green brass artifacts once recovered from it. The Daghestan was thoroughly demolished, since it lay directly in the shipping lane and was a great danger to navigation.
The wreck consists of a very large field of jumbled low-lying debris, hardly anything more than 3-4 ft tall. Even the boiler seems to have been destroyed, and I never found an engine; perhaps it was salvaged. The bottom here is not as silty as most places in this vicinity, but the current can be very strong, so this wreck must be dived with the tide.
Strumming propellers on passing cargo ships overhead make for an interesting experience. Diligent searching by six divers produced only one small lobster and a few nondescript bottles. This wreck is also known as "Stu's" and "the Steamship."
from AWOIS: 1619
FE101/51(F.E. NO. 10, 1951) -- CS-326; ITEM 85 OF SUPPLEMENTAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR PROJECT CS-326, DATED 12 DEC. 1950; WRECK, BELIEVED TO BE DERRICK BARGE B.D. 1738. HUNG AT AN EFFECTIVE DEPTH OF 55.2 FT. CLEARED TO AN EFFECTIVE DEPTH OF 49 FT. CHARTED AS WRECK CLEARED 49 FT. ECHO SOUNDER DEPTH OBTAINED DURING RECON. HYDRO. OF 57 FT. IN 60 TO 63 FT.
H10224/86 -- OPR-C121-WH-86; WRECKAGE WITH 52 FT PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH, WHICH IS BELIEVED TO BE THIS ITEM, APPROXIMATELY 100M SW OF AWOIS POSITION; DIVERS FOUND THE WRECK OF A BARGE, APPROXIMATELY 20 X 45 M; THREE BOILERS AND NUMEROUS OTHER TYPES OF SHIPYARD DEBRIS WERE FOUND STREWN OVER AN AREA OF 360 X 165 FT; IN THE NW CORNER OF THE SITE THE REMAINS OF ANOTHER WRECK WAS FOUND WITH ONLY THE SHELL PLATING AND FLOOR FRAMING REMAINING; APPROXIMATELY 200FT LONG, 27FT BEAM AND SHELL PLATING EXTENDING 5FT ABOVE THE BOTTOM; BOTH ENDS OF THE WRECK TAPERED INTO THE SAND WITH NO BOW OR STERN VISIBLE; ONE OBJECT CONSISTING OF GUARD RAIL TYPE METAL, APPROXIMATELY 2 FT WIDE, 3/8 INCH THICK, AND 40 FT LONG, FORMING A 60 DEGREE ARCH WITH THE MIDDLE STANDING 10 FT OFF THE BOTTOM; SITE CONSISTED OF TWO WRECKS AND SHIPYARD DEBRIS, INCLUDING A BOOM CRANE; LEAST DEPTH TAKEN ON THE TOP OF THE BOILER LOCATED AT THE NORTHEAST SECTION OF SITE. (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
24 NO. 562; BARGE, SUNK 1946 BY MARINE CASUALTY; POS. ACCURACY WITHIN 1 MILE; WD CLEARANCE TO 50 FEET. (SOURCE UNKNOWN).
The wreck to the northwest is the Daghestan; the other is the derrick barge B.D. 1738.
from AWOIS: 1607
NM47/66 -- DANGEROUS WRECK OF DREDGE DRYLAND, 62 FT. LONG. 22 FT. WIDE REPORTED SUNK IN ABOUT 90 FT. COVERED ABOUT 55 FT.
CL1540/78 -- MAR, OPR-C622-RU/HE-78; ITEM 4; INVESTIGATION BEGAN 30 AUGUST AND WAS COMPLETED ON 18 SEPTEMBER. EFFECTIVELY CLEARED TO MIN. OF 45.5 FT., (38.5 FT. ON A 40 FT. SHOAL), WITH NO HANGS ENCOUNTERED.
FE221/78-79 -- OPR-C622-RU/HE; ITEM 4; REQUIRED CLEARANCE TO 45 FT. DUE TO POSSIBLE HAZARDS ON BOTTOM. 1 MILE, RADIUS CIRCLE DRAGGED TO 45 FT. EXCEPT TO 38 FT. ON 40 FT. SHOAL (SEE AWOIS NO.00752) NW OF AMBROSE LIGHT TOWER. NO HANGS ENCOUNTERED. RECOMMENDED THAT CLEARED AREA BE CHARTED WITH GREEN TINT WITH 45 FT. CLEARANCE NOTE WHERE APPROPRIATE.
H10224/86-87 -- OPR-C121-WH-86-87; WRECK FOUND DURING MAIN SCHEME HYDROGRAPHY AND SIDE SCAN SONAR OPERATION 850M EAST OF REPORTED POSITION; SIX DIVES PERFORMED; 2-15 FT VISIBILITY; PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH OF 86 FT TAKEN ON TOP OF A 20 FT LONG DREDGE PIPE FLOAT FOUND 841.6M EAST OF AWOIS POSITION; WRECK SITE REVEALED PIPES, FLOATS AND DREDGING EQUIPMENT. (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
This wreck is often referred to as a trawler, but it is really a self-propelled wooden dump scow of the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company.
from AWOIS: 4295
H10224/86 -- OPR-C121-WH-86; MAIN SCHEME HYDROGRAPHY AND SIDE SCAN SONAR FOUND WRECK; DIVER INVESTIGATION REVEALED A WOODEN HULLED VESSEL BROKEN INTO TWO SEPARATE SECTIONS, LAYING UPRIGHT ON A SAND AND GRAVEL BOTTOM; TWO SECTIONS SEPARATED BY 20-30 FT OF SCATTERED DEBRIS; EVIDENCE OF INTERNAL MACHINERY AND DRIVE SHAFTS; BEAM ESTIMATED TO BE ABOUT 50 FT; KEEL BLOCK AND INTERNAL FRAMING WERE MOSTLY INTACT; AT THE SOUTHERN END OF WRECK ONLY OCCASIONAL WOODEN RIBS WERE OBSERVED EXTENDING UPWARDS FROM WRECKAGE; NORTHERN SECTION OF THE WRECK WAS COMPOSED OF WOODEN AND METALLIC BEAMS, PIPES AND OTHER DEBRIS; POOR VISIBILITY; PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH OF 52 FT TAKEN ON TOP OF WOODEN POST STICKING 8-10 FT UP FROM BOTTOM; BELIEVED TO BE A MOTOR DRIVEN BARGE OR SCOW WHICH BROKE APART AND SANK. (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
As Cornell No. 20 ( see Rockland County )
from AWOIS: 1588
NM 7/53 -- LTD WK BUOY ESTABLISHED TO MARK WRECK OF A TUG IN 78 FT OF WATER WITH 38 FT OF WATER OVER IT; IN PA LAT 40-25-25N, LONG 73-54-01W.
H10224/86 -- OPR-C121-WH-86; WRECK WAS LOCATED, 191M SE OF SUNKEN WRECK RAMOS; 55-60 FT WRECK IN AT LEAST TWO SECTIONS ON A SILT BOTTOM; METAL CROWS NEST WITH METAL RUNGS COLLAPSED ON TOP OF WHEELHOUSE; STANDING 10-14 FT OFF THE BOTTOM; PART OF MAIN MAST STILL BRACED TO UPPER WHEELHOUSE; WHEELHOUSE SUPERSTRUCTURE STOOD 8-10 FT ABOVE THE MAIN DECKING; MAIN PROPULSION SHAFT, 1 1/2-2 FT IN DIAMETER, FOUND AFT OF DEBRIS AT END OF SITE; PART OF THE TRANSOM WAS INTACT WITH A SINGLE 8 FT 3-BLADE PROPELLER FOUND AT THE STERN; THREE WOODEN BEAMS CLUSTERED TOGETHER STANDING 4-5 FT OFF THE BOTTOM AT A 45 DEGREE ANGLE AT THE SOUTHERN END OF WRECK; BOW STEM STANDING 6 FT ABOVE THE BOTTOM; BOW BROKEN OFF; APPROXIMATELY 14 FT REMAIN INTACT; STEEL HULLED WITH DETERIORATED WOOD DECKING; PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH OF 67 FT.; (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
24 NO.1025; TUG; SUNK BY MARINE CASUALTY; POSITION ACCURACY WITHIN 1 MILE; LEAST DEPTH 49 FT. (FE101)
from AWOIS: 701
LNM47/73 -- TUG, 53 FT L, SALVAGED FROM POS.40-34-06N, 73-59-48W AND SUNK AT POS.40-25N, 73-52W IN 70 FT OF WATER. SUPERSTRUCTURE COLLAPSED IN TRANSIT. PROJECTS APPROX 8 FT ABOVE BOTTOM.
H10224/86 -- OPR-C121-WH-86; WRECK LOCATED APPROXIMATELY 160M NNE OF REPORTED POSITION WITH PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH OF 63 FT; SITTING UPRIGHT ON SANDY BOTTOM; COLLAPSED REMAINS OF SUPERSTRUCTURE LOCATED LYING ON THE BOTTOM IMMEDIATELY NORTH OF THE VESSEL; EVALUATOR RECOMMENDED DELETING CHARTED SYMBOL AND NOTE, AND ADDING 63 WK AS SHOWN ON PRESENT SURVEY. (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
This would have become part of the Sandy Hook Reef, but it didn't exist yet.
This wreck seems to be one or more wooden barges, possibly garbage barges from the 1920's. There is an anchor in one spot near a machinery pile, and in other spots the old walls rise perhaps 10 ft off the bottom, but otherwise everything is pretty broken down. This forms many hiding holes for lobster and rock crabs, and there is one in almost every hole, and some quite large. The Sea Bass are also good sized. Yellowish natural sponges and bottles are easy to find.
This area is marked on many charts as the "Acid Grounds" because it was once used as a dumping ground for industrial waste. That was a while ago, however, and the environment certainly looks healthy enough today. Visibility this far out can be very good, but the bottom stirs up easily into an impenetrable cloud of silt, and there is little current to carry it away.
AWOIS: 1570 "disproved", exact location unknown
Photo courtesy of McAllister Towing.
Probably so-named because it is the next-closest thing to the Pinta at the same depth. So if that wreck turns out to be occupied by another boat, you get a "New Deal". Seldom visited, so should be good for fish and lobsters. A large and relatively intact barge filled with stones. Known by many other names, depending on who you ask.
The Pentland Firth was an "antisubmarine trawler", on loan to US Navy.
The wreckage of the Pentland Firth is spread over a wide area just west of the shipping lane. Hull plates and twisted metal are the most notable features. She rises 10 ft or so off the bottom at best. Visibility is usually poor, since she sits in an area once used as a dumping ground. Sometimes wrongly known as "Pentland First".
from AWOIS: 1595
H10224/86 -- OPR-C121-WH-86; WRECK WAS FOUND WITH A PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH OF 52 FT; WRECK WAS OF A METAL HULLED VESSEL APPROXIMATELY 110 FT LONG AND LAYING ON A PORT LIST INTO A SAND AND GRAVEL BOTTOM; IN APPROXIMATELY THE CENTER OF THE WRECK DIVERS FOUND A LARGE METALLIC CYLINDER LYING ON ITS SIDE WITH A SMALLER ONE EXTENDING UPWARDS FROM IT; LARGE AMOUNTS OF BENT AND TWISTED DECK PLATING, PIPING AND METAL BEAMS FOUND. (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
from AWOIS: 1531
FE331SS/89 -- OPR-C147-HE-89; CONTACT #9; SIDE SCAN SONAR CONTACT, FOUND ON ABOVE SURVEY, INVESTIGATED BY DIVERS; LOCATED THE REMAINS OF A LARGE SUNKEN WOODEN SHIP; APPEARED TO HAVE SETTLED KEEL DOWN AND TO ONE SIDE; ONLY ONE SHEER STRAKE RUNNING 40 M LONG AND SOME DECK PLANKS WERE EXPOSED; MOST OF THE SHIP WAS BURIED IN THE SAND; CURRENT SCOUR ALONG THE OUTBOARD SIDE OF THE WRECK ACCOUNTED FOR THE DIVERS MAXIMUM DEPTH OF 64 FT; SHOALEST POINT ROSE APPROXIMATELY 3 FT OFF A SANDY BOTTOM; PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH OF 54 FT. (UPDATED MSD 7/91)
24 NO. 361; SUNK 1939, CGS WD CLEARED TO 42 FT IN 1939
27 NO.644; LOCATED BY U.S.C. & G.S. IN SEPT. 1939, CLEARED TO 42 FT.
Side-scan sonar image, with the shadow of the
rudder plainly evident at the north end of the wreck.
Although this wreck is known to be the schooner barge Pocono, it is universally called the "Rudder Wreck." the mostly low, upside-down wreckage is in several pieces, requiring a jump over the pebbly sand to get from one to another. At the stern, the namesake schooner-style rudder juts up about 10 ft above the collapsed hull, while the broken-over bow is adorned with two large modern stockless anchors. One thing I don't recall seeing anywhere is rivets or rivet holes.
The bilge keel is still present along the east side, the west side is broken down. Much of the hull plating that was once the bottom is rusted through and collapsed, and there are many compartments to explore, some big enough to get inside. Naturally, big Blackfish can be found in places like this, although I didn't see any lobster. See the Macedonia for description of general diving conditions here.
from AWOIS: 1563
FE330SS/89--OPR-C147-HE-89; CONTACT #8 FROM SURVEY H-10284/88; SIDE SCAN SONAR AND DIVER INVESTIGATION FOUND THE REMAINS OF A WOODEN AND STEEL WRECK ABOUT 25M LONG RESTING UPRIGHT AND RISING 6 FT ABOVE A SANDY BOTTOM; WRECK IS BADLY WEATHERED BUT STILL MORE OR LESS INTACT; TWO LARGE ANCHORS STILL HANG FROM THE BOW; NO IDENTIFYING MARKINGS WERE FOUND ON WRECK; LEADLINE LEAST DEPTH OF 51 FT TAKEN ON ONE OF THE VERTICAL TIMBERS RISING ABOVE THE WRECK. (UPDATED MSD 6/91)
Location and details courtesy of Capt. Mick Trzaska of the dive boat CRT II. Thanks also to Capt Stan Zagleski for the identification of the wreck and the Artificial Reef Program for the side-scan sonar image.
Mr. Eliassen is reasonably sure that this image is of the Pocopson, on which
he sailed as a child when is father was Captain, 1922-1925.
The Pocopson was dynamited after sinking, and large sections of the wooden hull were broken up for firewood. Remaining wreckage is approximately 150 ft long, with no more than 2 ft of relief. Anchor and machinery lie at the bow end, and the entire wreck site is scattered with coal. Details courtesy of Capt. Stan Zagleski of the Miss Elaine B.
from AWOIS: 1517
FE332SS/89 -- OPR-C147-HE-89; CONTACT NO. 15; 50M RANGE SCALE SSS SEARCH WAS PERFORMED OVER THE COORDINATES PROVIDED BY WHITING; DIVERS FOUND THE DETERIORATED REMAINS OF AN OLDER WOODEN WRECK; RISES NO MORE THAN 1-2 FT. ABOVE THE BOTTOM; CONSIDERED INSIGNIFICANT; ECHO SOUNDER AND DIVER LEAST DEPTH OF 48 FT.; BECAUSE OF DETERIORATED CONDITION, COULD NOT POSITIVELY VERIFY IDENTITY, HOWEVER HECK BELIEVES THIS IS THE ITEM AND CONSIDERS IT RESOLVED. (UPDATED MSM 5/90)
from AWOIS: 1592
H10224/86 -- OPR-C121-WH-86; A SUNKEN WRECK WITH THE DIMENSIONS OF THE RAMOS WAS DETECTED THROUGH MAIN SCHEME HYDROGRAPHY AND SIDE SCAN SONAR; 240 FT LONG WOODEN VESSEL LAYING UPRIGHT IN 2 SECTIONS ON A SAND AND SILT BOTTOM; FORWARD SECTION ROSE APPROXIMATELY 20 FT ABOVE THE BOTTOM; STERN SECTION ROSE 4-6 FT ABOVE THE BOTTOM; 6 FT ANCHOR WINDLASS PROTRUDING 3-4 FT ABOVE THE DETERIORATING DECK ON FORWARD PORTION; APPROXIMATE 55 FT BEAM; RISING 18 FT OFF OCEAN FLOOR; BOW MOSTLY INTACT WHILE STERN IS MUCH MORE DETERIORATED; NO EVIDENCE OF PROPULSION MACHINERY WAS FOUND; PNEUMATIC DEPTH GAUGE LEAST DEPTH OF 59 FT TAKEN ON TOP OF ANCHOR WINDLASS NEAR THE BOW. (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
Nearby are the remains of several other barges.
This is the remains of an unidentified vessel which we located in August of 1986. She appears to be an old paddlewheel steamship, but this is only speculation and has yet to be confirmed. The only artifact I've found on this little wreck was a perfume bottle with the name "Rickseckers Perfume" on it, hence the name, Rickseckers.
She rests on a sandy bottom northeast of Ambrose Light Tower in 66 feet of water. All that remains unburied is her paddle wheel, boilers and some scattered debris. In 1989, while talking with John Lachenmayer and Frank Persico, I found out that this wreck, which I thought we had discovered, is also known as the Engine Wreck to the Aquarians dive club which has been frequenting it for years.
from AWOIS: 4300
FE215/76WD(FE1/76WD) -- HANG 3; DIVERS INVESTIGATED HANG; LEAST DEPTH OF 53 FT TAKEN BY DIVER GAUGE; OBSTR COMPRISED OF TWO 6 FT WHEELS CONNECTED TO A SHAFT WHICH LEAD TO MAJOR WRECKAGE; CLEARED BY 49 FT; POSSIBLY A TURBINE WHEEL. (ENTERED MSM 1/86)
H10668/97 -- OPR-C399-RU; 200% SIDE SCAN SONAR SEARCH LOCATED AN OBSTRUCTION WITH AN ES LD OF 53 FEET IN LAT. 40-30-17.920N, LONG. 73-49-12.105W. EVALUATOR RECOMMENDS REVISING 49-FOOT WIRE DRAG CLEARED DEPTH TO A 53 OBSTN AS SURVEYED. (UP 12/22/04, SJV)
carrying a cargo of stone
The outward-bound Scotland ran down the much smaller in-bound Kate Dyer about sixty miles out of New York harbor. The Kate Dyer sank immediately, taking 13 of her 27 crew with her. The mortally wounded Scotland paused just long enough to pick up survivors from the sunken vessel, and then turned around and ran for New York. By the time she made it to the harbor approaches, the Scotland was foundering, so her captain ran her aground on a shoal off Atlantic Highlands rather than risk sinking in the channel.
A two-day storm broke the iron hull before she could be salvaged, and the Scotland was abandoned. The wreck was blasted literally flat by the government, but not for two years, during which time she posed a great danger to other vessels, so a lightship was placed to mark the location at night. After the wreck was demolished, the lightship was moved further offshore to mark the shoal, and later replaced by a buoy, which remains to this day - the Scotland Buoy. The lawsuits went on for decades.
While the Scotland is probably no more than a rusty smudge on the bottom, the Kate Dyer is still out there somewhere, waiting to be identified.
Apart from possibly the three diesel engine blocks, it is likely nothing remains of the wreck of the Tampa III. Tampa III was third of a series of Tampas; Tampa V still sails local waters as the Miss Belmar Princess, while Tampa VII sails out of Point Pleasant.
from AWOIS: 1623
H10224/86 -- OPR-C121-WH-86; AN OBSTRUCTION WITH DEPTHS OF 46 AND 47 FT IN PRESENT SURVEY DEPTHS OF 51-53 FT WAS FOUND 138M SE OF THE AWOIS POSITION; DEBRIS ALSO FOUND IN SAME AREA; BELIEVED TO BE REMAINS OF WRECK; EVALUATOR RECOMMENDED DELETING CHARTED SYMBOL AND TYPE AND ADDING 46 OBSTN AS SHOWN ON PRESENT SURVEY. (UPDATED MSD 4/91)
A salvage vessel moored to the superstructure of the sunken Finance.
One of these three closely-grouped wrecks appears to be the remains of a large unidentified steam-powered ocean-going tugboat. A considerable amount of metal wreckage and a large boiler remain; the engine is nowhere to be found. The hull was probably 100-150 ft long, but the wreck has been dynamited to bits. Hull plates, I-beams, a small pilot house, and other wreckage lie in twisted heaps strewn in all directions on a coarse sandy bottom. An interesting dive, with plenty to explore and even a few lobsters.
The second one of these wrecks, also known as the "Jack-I", looks like a wooden schooner barge with a cargo of rubble stone. Draped with old ropes and fishing line, this is not nearly as good a dive. The third wreck of the triangle is a broken down old barge. The scow B.B.-59 is recorded as sunk on this spot on Friday June 6, 1924, and could well be one of these. Currents in this vicinity are strongly dependant on the tide, and can be vicious. Visibility is often impaired by silty Hudson river and Raritan bay water, and is usually poor.
Somewhere around this area should also be the remains of the steamer Finance (below), for which I have never found a precise location.
The Finance sank in only 15 minutes at a location about 3 (nautical) miles off Sandy Hook, directly under the shipping lane. The Finance sank with $100,000 in gold on board, all of which was salvaged by divers the next day. The wreck was later dynamited level with the seabed.
Twin sister Advance
Circa 1950, en route to Staten Island
The Vega was a small diesel-electric automobile ferry that operated for the Port Richmond - Bayonne ferry service. She had a capacity of 10 cars and 50 passengers. After her last run in December of 1960, she was sold along with her two sisters, Altair and Deneb, to a firm in Jacksonville, Florida. While all three were under tow to their new owner, Vega's cable parted in heavy seas and she capsized. Altair and Deneb did not sink, and were returned to Staten Island that day. The Vega's steel hull came to rest upside-down, and is seldom visited today. Also known as "the Upside-down Ferry."
from AWOIS: 1514
FE333SS/89--OPR-C147-HE-89; CONTACT NO. 26; 50M RANGE SCALE SIDE SCAN SONAR CONDUCTED OVER POSITION PROVIDED BY WHITING ON H10290/88; DIVERS LOCATED A RUSTED BUT INTACT CAPSIZED AUTOMOBILE AND PASSENGER FERRY MEASURING APPROXIMATELY 80 FT. LONG AND 40 FT. WIDE; LOCAL DIVERS IDENTIFIED AS THE VEGA; WRECK ROSE APPROXIMATELY 15 FT. OFF A SANDY BOTTOM; LEAST DEPTH OF 55 FT. BY LEADLINE. (UPDATED MSM 5/90)
Historical details courtesy of Jeff Cavorley