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SS Delaware

Manasquan Chart

Shipwreck SS Delaware

Type:
shipwreck, steamer, USA, Clyde Lines ( see Mohawk )
Built:
1880, Philadelphia PA USA
Specs:
( 250 x 37 ft ) 1646 gross tons, 66 passengers & crew
Sunk:
Saturday July 9, 1898
fire below decks, burned to waterline - no casualties
Depth:
75 ft

There is actually quite a bit of this old wooden steamer left. A linear array of rather large but low pieces is clearly recognizable as the remains of a ship, beginning with the bow and anchor assembly, back through the boilers, engine, drive shaft, and propeller, with hull ribs, copper sheathing, and other wooden remains throughout.

Depending on how the sand shifts, you may find a long chain extending from the bow, ending in a rusted clump, but no anchor. This is perplexing, since a large mass of chain and ( until recently ) the ship's anchor and are still evident on the bow structure. The explanation is this:

The morning after the fire, the burned-out hulk was found and taken in tow by salvagers. It promptly sank, at which point the salvagers would have had no choice but to let loose their end of the tow chain. As the extra chain rattled overboard, it would have sank and formed a pile at the end of the tow.

Shipwreck SS Delaware side-scan
side-scan sonar image

Conditions tend to be murky and dark ( bring a good light ), and there is usually a moderate current present. Several large sections of decking lie off the main axis of the wreck, and if you unknowingly stray onto them you can find yourself lost. Otherwise, navigation is not difficult, as the main wreckage is fairly straight and contiguous.

Lobsters disappear very quickly from this often-visited wreck, but there are still a few good ones, strategically located out of reach. The Delaware is usually crawling with big crabs, Sea Bass and Blackfish. The alley between the boilers is especially productive for spearfishing. Oddly, the last time I was on it, I could not find one single sea anemone, although the wreck is fairly well covered with white coral.

Small brass artifacts, primarily hull spikes, are still recovered, but the easy ones are long gone, so bring a hammer and chisel. Capt Steve adds: "You can still find pennies, brass suspender clips, bullets and assorted smallish trinkets in her bow sections, with a lot of patience and fanning the sands. In her stern, you can still find Jacksonville Steam Bottling Works soda bottles, olive jars, and lineament bottles, and even a case or two of old leather shoes; not for the fashion minded however." the best digging is between the chain pile and the boilers.

Shipwreck SS Delaware

Shipwreck SS Delaware

Clyde Lines flag
The Clyde Lines flag

The Delaware sank at the height of the Spanish-American War, which should be kept in mind while reading the following account:

From the New York Times
July 10, 1898, pg A1

THE DELAWARE LOST

Clyde Line Steamship Destroyed by Fire Off Barnegat.

ALL THOSE ON BOARD SAVED

Care Taken by Officers and Stewardess Prevents Panic.

Sixty-six Persons Taken from the Burning Vessel Without an Injury - Women and Children Rescued First.

The American steamer Delaware of the Clyde Line was destroyed by fire early yesterday morning off Barnegat, N.J.

The Delaware was bound for Charleston and Jacksonville, and the passengers who sailed on her from her East River pier beneath the Brooklyn Bridge at 3:30 o'clock on the afternoon of Friday were familiar with the awful details of the horror attending the loss of La Bourgogne. Had panic born of terror in fresh recollections resulted in a repetition of disaster, perhaps little wonder would have been felt. But cool-headed American judgment, the kind of discipline that has been covering the American Navy with glory and gallantry in the face or dangers, were the most conspicuous features of the loss of the Delaware.

She was burned to the water's edge, her hulk was sunk, and a quarter of a million were lost in the value of ship and cargo, but not a life was lost, not even a person injured.

There was a tumbling out of berths, hasty dressing or not dressing at all, a scamper to the decks, and a lowering away of boats. There was a rolling about in the swell and a wetting from the swatting of the seas against the gunwales, while the ocean was lighted up by a tremendous blaze on the burning ship, which presented a magnificent spectacle. The only exception to the prevailing calmness, however, and the practical management or the whole affair, was the conduct of two men who were said to be Spanish-Americans. They became greatly excited and tried to get first into the boats. They were promptly checked and taught good manners. The women and children were cared for first. There was finally a rescue and the bringing to the city of the rescued.

Sixty-six Persons Aboard.

The Delaware, commanded by Capt. A.D. Ingram, carried a general cargo and thirty-two passengers bound for various points in the South. Her crew numbered thirty-two men and a stewardess, Mrs. Ella C. Hill of this city, making, with the Captain, sixty-six persons aboard.

The steamer, which was an old wooden craft formerly in the Clyde Line's West Indian service, has been plying in the company's coast service since the war began. She passed out through the mine fields off Sandy Hook late Friday afternoon. There was a clear sky and the sea was unusually calm. The passengers stood about the rails, admiring the harbor and discussing the fortifications as the Delaware moved out to sea, and after that had dinner. Most of them turned in shortly after 9 o'clock, and all then was silent save the panting of the engine and the turning of the shaft and the rolling of the swash from off the bows.

It was close on to 10 o'clock when one of the seamen reported to the officer on the bridge that smoke was coming out of the after hatch. An immediate investigation was made, and there were soon evidences that the crew had a mean fire to deal with. The usual methods of subduing a blaze in the hold were resorted to. Holes were cut in the decks, and hose inserted, but the heat beneath the decks became steadily more intense, and when finally the men got to work in the saloon, rolling up the carpeting and cutting through the deck, the smoke came through in such overpowering masses that it was deemed time to notify the passengers and prepare for the worst.

Sleepers Quietly Aroused.

The First Officer, B. McBeth, and the stewardess went quietly from room to room and awakened such as were asleep, and notified all in a way not to excite alarm that there was a fire in the hold, and all hands were to go on deck as a precautionary measure. "Don't get excited, now, " they said. "There's time enough." All save ten or twelve got into their clothes.

While they were doing so there was a good deal of noise on the deck above from the hurrying feet of the men and the voices of the officers giving orders. The smell of smoke became strong, and then began to invade the rooms. This and a report that there were explosives In the cargo caused a good deal of anxiety, and some of the women became somewhat hysterical, but the stewardess, displaying a self-possession that won the admiration of all, went about reassuring the women and assisting them where she could.

As the passengers went out from their rooms, they found themselves in a blinding smoke, but they were met by guiding hands and practically passed along a line or the ship's company, each passenger from his own room to a place on deck next one of the boats, four of which were already swung out and ready for lowering.

The Delaware had been about ten miles off Barnegat when the fire was discovered. She had at once been headed in for the beach, and was now about two miles off shore. The fire had broken through and lighted up the surrounding waters, while rockets were being sent up to attract other vessels and the life savers, who on account of the war this year have been continued on duty during the summer months for signal purposes.

Women And Children First.

"The women and children first." Capt. Ingram ordered, and the men stood aside, save the two foreigners who endeavored to push to the boat. An officer promptly threw them back and kept them back despite their violent exclamations. Mrs. Hill, the stewardess, got into the boat last. There were nine women and four children in the boat besides the stewardess. Another woman had remained behind. She was Mrs. J.D.W. Claussen, a bride, who insisted upon remaining with her husband. The stewardess, it was said yesterday, was in an agitated state of mind when she discovered that one of her sex had remained aboard after she left. She had not discovered it till she and her especial charges were clear of the ship.

The other boats were then filled, the two foreigners being permitted at length to get into the last one, where they continued to mutter and complain till the other men told them to keep quiet in terms which meant that they must. Four boats in all were lowered away, an officer in charge of each.

It was found that the life raft, stowed on the deck aft, was cut of from reach by the flames, and immediately two rafts were constructed from hatch gratings. On these the remaining members of the crew and finally the Captain took refuge. The Captain left last, lowering himself by a rope. Two of the boats then took the rafts in tow and pulled out of danger.

Chief Engineer Platt said that his watch stopped at 11:20 P.M. That must have been, he said, when he jumped to the raft. The Captain left soon afterward, and the Delaware was then almost a mass of fire, the flames having swept up the rigging, ignited the deckhouses, around which they licked viciously, and even wrapped themselves about the masts.

Stories of Explosions.

Some of the passengers said they heard explosions and were sure there was ammunition aboard, but the officials of the company deny this, and think that the passengers, in their nervous fright, got exaggerated impressions of the noises of combustion going on aboard the ship.

Meantime the patrol of the Cedar Creek Life Saving Station had discovered the fire at sea and a surf boat was put off to the rescue. She relieved some of the boats of their passengers, and then happily the fishing smack Samuel B. Miller of New York came up. She took all of the occupants of one boat aboard.

Capt. Ingram, as soon as all the boats were off, had warned them to keep offshore to avoid the breakers, and this admonition was repeated by the life savers, who said it would not be well to attempt to reach the beach until after daybreak.

One boat, in charge of Second Officer Hill, got separated from the others for a time, but she turned up all right, having been only hidden in a cloud of smoke. Some of the men and some of the women were scantily clad, and all got wet by the dashing of spray over the sides of the boats, but this discomfort was not seriously considered since all were at least safe.

The tug Ocean King came along about 3 o'clock in the morning, and took aboard all hands from boats and schooner, save the Captain and twelve of his officers and men, who boarded the schooner and remained to cruise about the wreck and hold possession if it should prove that she would remain afloat and could be towed to the city. The Captain and crew were subsequently taken ashore by the life savers, and they came to the city by rail.

Arrival of the Ocean King.

The Ocean King, which had taken all the others, had been coming up the coast with some barges in tow. She promptly anchored the barges. She arrived at the Clyde pier at about 10:30 o'clock, and from there most of the passengers went to the United States Hotel, where they were quartered at the expense of the Clyde Company.

The Merritt-Chapman Derrick and Wrecking Company dispatched the wrecking tug W.S. Chapman down the coast, and the hulk of the Delaware was found still afloat and still burning despite the heavy rain of the morning. A dense smoke came from her. One mast was still standing. Nearly all of her hull above water was gone. A cable was made fast. to her and she was taken in tow, moving very slowly up the coast.

She got no further than a point off Point Pleasant. Observers ashore, of whom there had been thousands in the course of the day, noticed that the tow had stopped, and soon afterward the wrecking tug was noticed steaming speedily north. She had dropped her tow, which had dropped out of sight beneath the waters.

Some of the passengers reached the city in peculiar temporary garb lent by the seafaring men. Carriages were provided for them. Blankets made up a part of the attire of two or three, who were forced to keep to the rooms to which they were assigned and have meals taken to them, pending a re-outfitting provided by the Clyde Line.

List of Passengers.

The list of passengers was as follows:

BROWN, EDWARD, Savannah.
CLAUSSEN. J.D.W., Charleston, S.C.
CLAUSSEN, Mrs., Charleston, S.C.
DALTON, J., Jacksonville, Fla.
FIGUERA, Dr. ENRIQUE, Cienfuegos, Cuba.
FRANK, Mrs. J., Miami, Fla.
GERATY, JOHN W., Sanibel, Fla.
GERATY, WILLIAM C., South Carolina.
HARTZ, Mrs. WILLIAM, Charleston, S.C.
HARTZ, Master WILLIAM, five years old, Charleston, S.C.
HERNANDEZ, JANE, Havana.
HOFFMANN, Miss E.A., Philadelphia.
LEWIN, F.S., 265 West One Hundred and Thirty-fourth Street, New York.
MABIE, J.H., Hackensack, N.J.
MABIE, Master HARRY, five years old, Hackensack, N.J.
MARSH, R.P., Augusta, Ga.
MARSH, Miss BESSIE, Augusta, Ga.
MARSH, Miss Lillian, Augusta, Ga.
MULLINGS, CHARLES, Charleston. S.C.
RICHARDS, W.A., Ocala, Fla.
RICHARDS. Mrs., Ocala, Fla.
SAYMON, BERNARDO, New York.
SCHNELD, L., Charleston, S.C.
SIMONS, P.N., Charleston, S.C.
SMITH, ADAM, Philadelphia.
SOKOLOWSKI, VINCENT, Philadelphia.
WARD. I.P., Augusta, Ga.
WARNER. Dr. JAMES, Havana.
WARNER, Mrs., Havana.
WARNER, PAUL W., 4 years old, Havana.
WARNER, GEORGE, 2 years old, Havana.
WHELAN, T.H., Austin, Tex.

No Personal Effects Saved.

Of the twenty who went to the hotel, not one had saved any personal effects except the clothing on their backs, and of that part was presented to them by the line. There were five women in this party, and they were the principal sufferers in loss of raiment. The men had fared somewhat better. Several of them had not gone to bed when the danger to the vessel was discovered. The others all managed to pull on some of the more important garments of masculine attire before being compelled to abandon the ship.

The men all talked very freely of the destruction of the Delaware, and one and all agreed that, save in the case of the two men, both foreigners, the fire developed a splendid example of the Anglo-Saxon spirit of "women and children first." There was no excitement, they said, and no scrambling for seats in the lifeboats, except in the case of the foreigners referred to. These were quickly and sternly made to realize that Americans did not approve of the Latins' principle of safety in time of danger. As these men made a dash for a place in the first boat they were grabbed and flung back with no tender hand.

The Ammunition Story.

Two of the men passengers declared that an officer told them they were being hurried off the vessel, not because the immediate danger was from the flames themselves, but from the likelihood of an explosion of a lot of ammunition in the hold. Among those who told this story were I.P. Ward, a railroad man of Augusta. Ga., who came to New York on the Algonquin two weeks ago on pleasure. He was the first of the passengers to discover the ship was afire. He saw the smoke some moments before the Captain ordered the passengers informed, and instantly guessed the truth. He said:

"I was sitting on the upper deck enjoying the cool breeze when my attention was caught by the sight of a thin column of smoke curling upward from the lower deck. It was then about 10 o'clock. Though the hour was early, nearly everybody had retired. But there was one man sitting near me, and I called his attention to the smoke. It seemed very strange, and together we started to make an inspection. A deck hand passed us just then, and I asked him what the cause of it was. He told me there was a fire in the hold. Almost at the same instant several sailors bearing axes appeared on the deck below and began chopping a hole through it. I started down the companionway to notify some friends, but just as I got in the passageway I saw a man coming along rapping on each stateroom door, and quietly saying, 'All hands to the upper deck immediately'."

Haste But No Confusion.

"The passengers evidently understood the emergency of the summons. They flung open their stateroom doors, and thronged into the hallway. Yet there was no excitement, only the confusion of hurry, One man cracked his door, and thrusting his head out, asked what the trouble was. I told him I thought the ship was on fire. 'Oh, Is that all' he said, and he closed the door again. Later, I saw him on the upper deck, fully dressed and smoking a pipe."

"The male passengers turned their attention to the women, and assisted them up the steps. When I got back to the deck nearly everybody was grouped forward watching the flames, which were then burning fiercely. I rushed back down to get my grip, in which was a gold watch, a diamond bracelet, and a set of diamond studs I had just bought, but the passage had become filled with smoke, and I found it impossible to reach my stateroom. I again went on deck. With me were two or three men who had evidently gone below, like myself, to secure their baggage. When we reached the deck for the last time the boats were swinging clear, and the women and children being handed in. A man came running toward the first boat and tried to get a seat. Capt. Ingram caught him by the collar and flung him prostrate on the deck. Two or three other men stepped up to where he lay and warned him to be still if he valued his life. I do not know what this man's name was, but somebody told me he was a Cuban doctor."

Another Too Hasty.

"In a minute another man dashed toward the boat. He, too, was a Cuban, I understand, and he met the same consideration as his fellow-countryman. I asked an officer why the hurry was so great, as the danger from the flames did not even then seem pressing. He told me because there was a lot of ammunition for Sampson stored below, and the Captain was afraid it would explode and blow everybody up."

"When my turn came to get in a boat, a fellow dragging a trunk pushed past me and flung the trunk Into the little craft. Four men who were already seated calmly, and of one accord, picked it up and tossed It overboard. Then they invited the trunk owner in, and afterward explained to him the fact that there wasn't room enough for his baggage."

"We all pulled away a short distance and watched the steamer burn. Directly there came two explosions in rapid succession, and following a display of fireworks of such magnificence as I have ever seen. At length, we rowed off toward the shore. About 3 o'clock the Ocean King picked us up and brought us to New York, where we were met and escorted to this hotel. Tomorrow I'm going to make a new start for home. And I am going to make It by rail."

R.P. Marsh's Story.

R. P. Marsh, also of Augusta, Ga., and also a railroad man, insists that he heard an officer say that the reason for hurrying the passengers and crew into the boats was because of the fear of an explosion of some ammunition in the hold consigned to Sampson, and that it did explode afterward.

Mr. Marsh had along with him his two sisters. They saved nothing except their nightdresses and one shoe. As they were being helped up the steps to the deck, Mr. Marsh ran back to the hallway and seized a pair of blankets from a bunk in one of the forward staterooms. These he gave to the young women.

Mr. Marsh's statement about the behavior of passengers and crew is, like Mr. Ward's, a story of coolness and courage and discipline. The sailors worked quietly and rapidly at cutting away the boats, and wherever the passengers could be of assistance they tendered their help. And where their aid was not needed, they withdrew in order to avoid being in the crew's way. The men, he says, stood about in little groups, quietly smoking and talking about the chances of being blown to atoms any second.

P.N. Simons, a prominent citizen of Charleston, was also enthusiastic in regard to the general behavior on the Delaware. He said he was asleep in his stateroom when the summons to repair to the upper deck came. He was dressed at the time, and immediately obeyed without stopping to get his baggage. In his boat were fifteen mea and one woman - Mrs. Clausen. She had declined to go in the first boat and leave her husband. She wanted to help at the oars.

Mr. Simon's boat afterward pulled back close to the burning ship to take three men off of a raft. Two of these men were engineers, and one an oiler, all of whom had waited for the passengers to get off the vessel before trying to leave themselves. At the last moment they flung the cover of a hatchway overboard. and, jumping after it, used it as a raft. Mr. Simon's boat was shortly afterward hailed by a life-saving boat, and cautioned against any attempt to make the shore. They were picked up by the fishing smack later on.

A Woman's Account.

Miss Hofmann, who was one of the last women to reach the deck, said she had been awakened by the order to go on deck, but not appreciating that there was any great hurry, she and Mrs. Hartz, who was in the same cabin, stopped to put on some clothing. The stewardess, however, came along and quietly told them the ship was on fire, and It would be well to make haste. They immediately went up and were handed into a boat.

C.H. Warburton, the Clyde Line's Eastern Passenger Agent, said yesterday that his company would do, and was doing, everything that could be expected of it for the relief of the Delaware's passengers. He was with them all day yesterday, or out buying shirts and underclothing and trousers, and articles of feminine wear.

"Not only, " he said, "will they be taken care of here at our expense until they can make a new start toward the South, but, when they are in shape to go we shall offer them their choice of rail or water. As for their lost baggage, of course I can't replace that. But, when these people get home we will leave them at liberty to take steps to indemnify themselves.

The Delaware was built in Philadelphia in 1880 at Hillman's shipyard. She had three decks and was 251 feet long, 37 feet beam, and 17 feet deep. Her register was 1,297 net tons and 1,646 gross tons. She was valued at $126,000, covered by insurance.

The cargo was of about the same value as the ship, and was partly insured.

Capt Ingram is about thirty-six years old, and has been a Captain on the line for nine years. He hails from Wilmington, N.C., where he has a family. His father was a Clyde Line Captain, and saw service under the Government during the civil war From him his son takes the 1nstinct of the nautical-born pilot, the Clyde Line officials say, and they were immensely satisfied with his conduct on the Delaware.

The Captain reached the city so used up that he was not permitted yesterday to make any statement.

Shipwreck SS Delaware boilers
The engine, viewed over one of the boilers.

Shipwreck SS Delaware
An air pocket inside the engine forms an upside-down tide pool.

Shipwreck SS Delaware propeller
Looking down the shaft at the propeller

Shipwreck SS Delaware
The top of the engine, with a school of Triggerfish

Shipwreck SS Delaware

NEW JERSEY'S DELAWARE
Is the Money-Filled Strongbox Still there?

Text and Photography by Herb Segars

shipwreck SS DelawareIn the latter days of June 1898, the Clyde Line Steamer Benefactor foundered in the waters off Frying Pan Light, North Carolina. The steamer Delaware, on its way north from Charleston, South Carolina, took the Benefactor under tow to Red Hook, New Jersey. The Delaware continued on to its berth at Pier 29 on the East River, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Little did anyone suspect this benevolent act would be the last complete voyage for the majestic steamer.

At 3:30 pm on Friday, July 8, the Delaware sailed from New York for Charleston, South Carolina, with 32 passengers, 34 crew members and a cargo of nearly 1,000 tons. The ship cruised off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, under clear skies and in calm seas. The passengers enjoyed the view of the coastline and most turned in for the evening around 9:00 pm. The quiet night air was broken only by the humming of the steamer's engine and the slapping of the waves against the hull.

Close to 10:00 pm, crew members reported to the officer on the bridge that smoke was coming from the after hatch. Finding a raging fire below deck, the crew employed a standard shipboard firefighting technique, cutting holes in the deck and inserting water hoses. By the time they rolled the carpets and cut holes in the main salon deck, the fire was so intense that overpowering amounts of smoke poured through the holes.

The Delaware was about 10 miles east of Barnegat, New Jersey, when the fire was discovered. Crew members fired rockets, hoping to alert passing ships or land-based lifesavers. The wooden steamer immediately headed west toward land and was about two miles off the beach when the fire broke through to the outside of the ship, lighting up the night sky.

Loss of life was prevented by the excellent performance of all crew members. First officer B. McBeth and stewardess Ella C. Hill went quietly from room to room, awakening passengers, informing them of the situation and advising them to go to the top deck as a precautionary measure. Many passengers emerged from their cabins in a blinding smoke-filled labyrinth. The crew quickly responded by forming chains and passing passengers along hand-to-hand until all were safely on deck and near a lifeboat.

Captain Ingram's instructions were clear: Women and children into the lifeboats first! This order was obeyed without question. Except for a minor scuffle with two overzealous male passengers, the evacuation was textbook perfect. All of the women and children, with the exception of a young bride who refused to be separated from her husband, and the stewardess who declared that she would stand with the officers and crew, boarded the first lifeboat. Male passengers and some crew members occupied the remaining boats. Four of the five lifeboats were launched; the last was unreachable in the intense fire. The captain and the remaining crew members escaped on two life rafts fashioned by lashing together deck grating and hatch combings.

shipwreck SS DelawareAt Cedar Creek Life Saving Station No. 15, the first sign of disaster occurred at 10:00 pm with the sighting of the Delaware's red and white Coston signal. Station keeper Alex Brinley quickly signaled a red Coston signal reply. Although short-handed, they launched a heavy lifeboat whose crew performed a remarkable feat: rowing the five miles to the Delaware in an hour. The lifesaving crew relieved a few lifeboats of their passengers; the fishing smack Samuel B. Miller, of New York, arrived on site and took all the occupants of one lifeboat.

Dangerous surf conditions stopped any attempts at beaching the lifeboats at night. About 3:00 am, the tug Ocean King, moving north along the coast with barges in tow, spotted the Delaware's fire. The tug anchored the barges, moved in and took all aboard save 12 crew members and the captain. These 13 stayed aboard the Samuel B. Miller and cruised around the Delaware to maintain possession of the steamer. The Ocean King returned to Clyde Line's pier, safely depositing her precious human cargo ashore. Sixty-six began the voyage, 66 were saved.

In hopes of salvage, the Merritt-Chapman Derrick and Wrecking Company dispatched the tug W.S. Chapman down the coast. She found the Delaware afloat and still burning despite a heavy mid-morning rain. One mast still stood, although the entire hull was burned to the waterline. In the midst of dense smoke that poured from the steamer, a line was secured to her and the tug slowly towed the Delaware northward.

Onlookers on the beach were treated to a sight as the caravan moved along the coast. Near Bayhead, New Jersey, the tug was seen to move away from the burning hulk and steam quickly northward. The reason was soon evident as the Delaware slipped beneath the sea to its watery grave. The loss of the ship and its cargo was valued at $250,000.

The Delaware lies in 76 feet of water one and a half miles off the coast of Bayhead. It is a 15 minute run from Manasquan Inlet and about 40 minutes from Shark River. It's an excellent second dive after a deeper offshore dive or a nice place to anchor for two dives. Additionally, her proximity to the coast makes her a choice spot when the winds are blowing hard out of the west. The Delaware is one of the few shipwrecks off New Jersey that can be found using land ranges.

shipwreck SS DelawareThe wreck lies north to south on a sandy bottom with the bow facing south. Most of the wreckage rises four or five feet off the bottom except for the 10 to 12 foot high boilers and engine. A diver can swim the fringes of the wreck from the bow to the steel propeller in one dive.

Artifact hunting is the most popular facet of diving the Delaware. Thousands of artifact dives have been made on the Clyde Line steamer and hundreds of square feet of sand have been searched in the hopes of finding a precious remnant of the past. It took 91 years for the shipwreck to yield its crown jewel-the ship's bell. In October of 1989, Pennsylvania diver Bill Davis uncovered the bell on a small section of wreckage off the main wreck. This find stunned hardcore New Jersey artifact hunters.

Almost every artifact conversation about the Delaware touches on the legend of a strongbox containing $250,000. Many believe it was removed before the ship went down. Others point to the statements of passengers describing the impossibility of entering the ship once the fire was raging. Perhaps it has already been found and not reported-or some lucky diver may find it tomorrow.

The Delaware is an excellent sightseeing dive, as long as the visibility is good. Its proximity to shore makes it susceptible to visibility lowering influences such as run-off. Its marine community includes Ocean Pouts, Sea Bass, Blackfish (Tautogs), Bergalls, sea anemones, barnacles, crabs and our only coral species-the Northern Stony Coral. Large Conger Eels inhabit the nooks and crannies of the wreck by day and prowl openly at night. Those unprepared for the sight of a six footer swimming into their light beams will suffer an immediate increase in heart rate. Underwater photography is usually limited to macro and close-up because of an average visibility of 10 to 15 feet. Of course, there are those days when visibility is great, exciting the sightseers, hunters and underwater photographers. Artifact hunters, lost in their little clouds of disturbed sand, never know the difference.

Shipwreck SS Delaware land ranges
The Delaware is one of the few wrecks that can be found by land ranges.
Note the locations of the two sets of water and bridge towers.

Clyde Lines apparently built a new Delaware to replace this one, since a New York pilot boat is listed as having been run down by such a vessel in 1912. Pilot boats were small sailing craft in those days, nothing like the Sandy Hook.

The Delaware, a wooden steamship built in 1880, now lies beneath 75 feet of seawater just a few miles out of Manasquan Inlet (New Jersey). The ship, which burned and sank on July 9, 1898, was originally 252' long, 37' high, and 1279 tons.

She was bound from New York to Jacksonville with a cargo of general merchandise, 29 passengers, and 41 crew. All were safely evacuated once fire was discovered off Barnegat, but the Delaware slipped beneath the waves and was lost about three miles off Point Pleasant as she was being towed up the shore by a tug the following morning. The crew were commended for their courage and discipline, as the evacuation was very orderly, women and children first followed by the men passengers, the crew, and finally Captain A.D. Ingram.

Shipwreck SS Delaware nails
The Delaware's cargo included nails, which can still be found on the wreck.

The Delaware is today one of the most visited wrecks for dive boats out of Manasquan inlet. Although she burned to the waterline before she sank, the wreck is definitely recognizable as the remains of a ship, with her boilers, engine and propeller shaft providing good reference points for navigation. Despite the popularity of this site, a bit of digging (and a little luck) will still turn up interesting artifacts.

Original NJScuba website by Tracey Baker Wagner 1994-1996

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


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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
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