New Jersey Scuba Diving
The "Big Hankins, " to be precise. Typical of most any schooner barge wreck.
- shipwreck, schooner barge(s)
- late 1800's
- 80 ft
There are a number of late 1800's wrecks that go by some variation of "Hankins". No one is quite sure why they are all called this. The most likely explanation is that they were all originally charted by some fishing boat captain who is now forgotten except for his name.
The "Big Hankins" is the remains of a large sailing ship, reduced by time and the sea to a series of low walls and some machinery piles. The machinery includes boiler, winch, anchor, and chain, and ostensibly marks the bow of the vessel, which would otherwise be unrecognizable. The vessel appears to be of composite construction - wooden planking over an iron or steel frame. This relatively rare type of construction would place the vessel's launching in the middle 1800's. The sinking date would be later, of course, perhaps around the turn of the century, judging from the design of the anchor. She might once have been a world-circling fast clipper ship, or an Atlantic packet ship, reduced at the end of her days to a lowly coal barge. Wooden decking and smaller debris are scattered all around.
The "Offshore Hankins" is a small wreck, with a machinery pile at the east end, which would be assumed to be the bow of a schooner barge. Some of the walls are hollow, and careful inspection is bound to reveal a bug or two.
Photos from the "Big Hankins:"
On reaching the bottom, you find a typical New Jersey wreck - low parallel walls in the sand. Following this wall north, we get to the bow of the wreck.
Your eyes quickly adjust-out the green-ness of underwater scenes, but the camera never does. This visibility was about 20 ft, on a bright sunny morning. All these shots were taken using just ambient light - no flash or strobe.
A rather modern-looking Navy-style stockless anchor.
Another view of the anchor, still drawn up into the fallen hawsepipe, which makes the stock of the anchor look much thicker than it really is.
The anchor chain trails off in the sand. Links that are exposed to the corrosive seawater and abrasive sand have become etched and skinny.
The chain pile is a low conglomerated lump - almost unrecognizable.
Can you make out the individual links ?
The steam-powered winch for the anchor, looking head-on. Note the diagonal teeth on the large spline gear in the center, next to the spool. The chain hangs down off the spool and trails off the lower-left corner of the picture, towards the chain pile and anchor.
A different view of the winch. Hardly looks like the same piece, but it is,
which shows how difficult it can be to identify things on these old wrecks !
A small donkey boiler nearby, which provided steam for the winch.
The top is gone, showing the fire tubes within.
The upper part of the hull wall is broken off and lies diagonally across the foreground of this picture, while the lower part stands upright in the background, with a small gap between.
Looking straight down onto a wall, the hull looks like wooden planks fastened to iron I-beam ribs. This so-called "composite construction" was an intermediate step in the transition in shipbuilding from all-wood to all-metal hulls, and was used mainly in the 1850's and 1860's.
Black Sea Bass swarm over wooden decking and debris near the stern,
which is decorated with small stony clumps of Northern White Coral.
Locations and details courtesy of Capt. Steve Nagiewicz of the dive boat Diversion II.
Drawing courtesy of Aaron Hirsh, Wreck Valley Collection
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