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New Jersey Scuba Diving

Brunette ( "Doorknob Wreck" )

Manasquan Chart

Shipwreck Brunette side-scan
side-scan sonar image

Type:
shipwreck, steamer, USA
Built:
1867, Wilmington DE USA
Specs:
274 tons (?), 9 crew
Sunk:
Tuesday February 1, 1870
collision with steamer Santiago de Cuba ( 1627 tons) - 2 casualties
Depth:
75 ft

Shipwreck Brunette New Your TimesThe wreck of the Brunette bears a striking resemblance to the Delaware. The form of a ship is clearly evident (although not in the picture below), from the chain locker at the bow to the propeller at the stern. One difference is that while the Delaware was wood, the Brunette was iron, so instead of ribs, the wreckage is outlined by rusted metal hull plates protruding slightly from the sand. Another difference is that the Delaware lies in mud, while the Brunette lies in clean sand. So I guess they're not all that alike after all.

Overall, this wreck seems smaller than the Delaware. The tonnage quoted above is almost certainly the cargo capacity, not the gross tonnage. In any case, the Brunette was a very small steamer for her time, and sank in only ten minutes after her port side was smashed in by the much larger Santiago de Cuba.

The highest part of the wreck is the large steam engine, which stands crooked amidships, perhaps 10 ft tall. From there the drive shaft extends back to the four-bladed iron propeller, which is over six feet in diameter. The stern has collapsed and flattened, and from beneath one of the hull plates I once took a four pound lobster. The boilers in front of the engine are a good place for spearfishing.

The Brunette is known as a good digging wreck, having produced many fine artifacts when it was initially discovered. Capt. Steve adds: "We have recovered school bells, horse spurs, keys, doorjambs and of course the doorknobs, gunpowder flasks, small pocket knives, brass buttons, pewter forks, spoons, Missaquois Soda bottles, and assorted hardware ( we used to refer to it as the "Rickel Wreck" for all the hardware we found ... alas now we'd be forced to call it the 'Home Depot Wreck'. )"

Brunette

CDROMThe Brunette was a 274 ton screw propeller freighter, built in 1867 by Pusey & Jones Yards, Wilmington, Delaware. On February 1, 1870, the Brunette was en route from New York to Philadelphia with a general cargo. At 10:00 PM she collided with the Santiago de Cuba.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer "On Tuesday afternoon at 6 pm the steamer Brunette, Capt Doane, left the Lorillard Steamship Dock, bound to Philadelphia. She was laden with an assorted cargo, and about three quarters full. Including officers there were thirteen souls on board. Nothing of interest Shipwreck Brunetteoccurred until about 20 minutes past 10, when a steamer was noticed bearing down for the Brunette. She proved to be the Santiago de Cuba. It seems that the Brunette attempted to cross the bow of the Santiago de Cuba and failing to do so in time, the two vessels collided. Every effort was made on board both vessels to avoid the disaster by reversing the engines, but the orders were given too late, and the Santiago de Cuba struck the Brunette a terrific blow in the port broadside, completely crushing her in and keeling her over to starboard." Two of the Brunette's crew perished in the accident.

Shipwreck Brunette artifactsCaptain George Hoffman found this wreck a few years back. When divers started to dig, they recovered crates of brown and white marble door knobs, pocket knives and bottles. All that is left of her is her propeller shaft, coal fired steam engine and boilers. The "Door Knob Wreck", as she is more commonly known, rests 200 feet away from the Cadet in 70 feet of water. The Brunette is one of New Jersey's best artifact wrecks.

Excerpted from Wreck Valley CDROM by Dan Berg

Shipwreck Brunette engine
The engine. It is not just crooked, it is actually smashed right off its
mounts, held in place now only by the piston connecting rod and rust.
I wonder what hit it that hard?

Shipwreck Brunette propeller
The propeller.

Diving the Elusive Brunette - Dive Sites & Shipwrecks - New Jersey Scuba Diving Not sure what is so elusive about it, but a nice tour of the entire site, on an extraordinarily clear day. Our tour begins at the propeller, and goes forward along the shaft to the crooked engine. Forward of the engine, divers search for lobsters around the collapsed boilers. We then head back along the shaft to the prop. Video by Dan Crowell.
"Diving the Elusive Brunette"
video courtesy of Dan Crowell, dancrowell.com

Our tour begins at the propeller, and goes forward along the shaft to the crooked engine. Forward of the engine, divers search for lobsters around the collapsed boilers. We then head back along the shaft to the prop. So what's so elusive about the Brunette? Nothing really, except the extraordinary viz you see here.

Shipwreck Brunette Cadet Side-scan
The Brunette lies almost within swimming distance of the Cadet

Shipwreck Brunette flywheel
Rusted flywheel.

Shipwreck Brunette anemones
Bouquet of sea anemones on the engine.

Shipwreck Brunette anemones
More sea anemones inside the engine, with white coral above.

Brunette ( "Doorknob Wreck" ) - Dive Sites & Shipwrecks - New Jersey Scuba Diving Another video from NJScuba.net -- Brunette ( "Doorknob Wreck" ) - Dive Sites & Shipwrecks - New Jersey Scuba Diving

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba
There don't seem to be any extant images of the Brunette before sinking, but here is the Santiago de Cuba that sank her, armed for Civil War service

Santiago de Cuba, a 1567-ton (burden) wooden side-wheel steamship, was built in 1856 at New York City for commercial use. She was purchased by the U.S. Navy in September 1861, converted to a cruiser and commissioned as USS Santiago de Cuba in November 1861. Sent to the Gulf of Mexico area to enforce the blockade of the Confederate States and protect American shipping, she proved to be a very successful blockader. USS Santiago de Cuba was decommissioned in June 1865 and sold at auction in September. She soon reentered commercial employment and operated as a steamship for the next two decades. She was converted to a barge in 1886 and renamed Marion. The old ship finally passed out of service in about 1899.

Shipwreck Brunette clump
You can still find doorknobs, if you know where to look.

These small doorknobs from the Brunette are polished brown marble; rarer are white marble ones. The metal shafts are more delicate than the stone, and are seldom found intact. The pot metal backing plates are even more fragile, and although there was originally one with every doorknob, almost none remain today.

These doorknobs were originally part of the ship's cargo, and were packed in large crates. When found, they were concreted in a black, coal-like substance. Traces of the original packing crates were still evident in places. Scrubbing with a dilute acid solution removed a graphite-like black coating and revealed the lustrous brown marble beneath.

Shipwreck Brunette clump
They usually come up embedded in a coal-like mass.

Shipwreck Brunette doorknobs

The broken knob at the lower-left above shows how the pot metal shafts were assembled: cast in place after the big mounting hole and smaller diagonal retaining holes were drilled into the back of the knob.

Shipwreck Brunette slider
Decorative brass curtain sliders found in abundance on the wreck

Shipwreck Brunette button keys
Brass keys

Side scan sonar image, artifacts, and comments courtesy of Capt. Steve Nagiewicz


"Cadet" - John H. Winstead

Manasquan Chart

Shipwreck cadet

Type:
shipwreck, schooner barge
Built:
1922, Baltimore MD USA
Specs:
( 215 x 36 ft ) 1160 tons
Sunk:
Monday December 5, 1927
foundered in storm - no casualties
Depth:
80 ft

The John H Winstead was under tow in a string with the Millville and another barge when the Millville began to sink in rough seas. The towing tug immediately released all the barges to pick up the crew of the Millville, which sank soon after. The remaining two barges rode out the storm at anchor, but the Winstead sank the next morning.

Together with a completely erroneous listing for the ship Valparaiso, and perhaps confused by the proximity of the Brunette, these became known as the "Three American Barges." Despite the well-documented sinkings, the original names were mostly forgotten as the wrecks took on a host of nicknames, until Dan Lieb of the NJHDA straightened it all out. However, this popular dive site will surely continue to be known as the Cadet; also sometimes known as "Cramer's".

John H. Winstead
John H. Winstead

There is still coal to be found among the wooden ribs. Fishing is usually excellent; lobstering much less so. The bottom is silty, and visibility is often poor.

Shipwreck cadet side-scan
side-scan sonar image

Shipwreck cadet side-scan
The Cadet lies almost within swimming distance of the Brunette

Side scan sonar image and diagram courtesy of Capt. Steve Nagiewicz of the dive boat Diversion II.

NJHD


"String Wreck" / Millville

Manasquan Chart

Shipwreck Millville

Type:
shipwreck, schooner barge
Built:
1919 - Millville FL USA
Specs:
( 230x37 ft ) 1213 tons
Sunk:
Sunday December 4, 1927
foundered in storm - no casualties
Depth:
80 ft

The "String Wreck" is in fact the Millville, located approximately 1000 feet east of the Cadet. The wreckage is very low-lying and broken-up. It is so-named because you cab swim to it from the Cadet, navigating with a very long piece of string. ( This is hardly recommended ! )

Although they sank just a day apart, the Millville sank during the storm, and apparently was bashed to pieces, while the Winstead or Cadet is one of the more intact schooner barge wrecks along the coast.


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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.

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