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New Jersey Scuba Diving


New Jersey Scuba Diving

"Lavallette Wreck"

NJ Coast Chart

Shipwreck Lavallette Wreck

The "Lavallette Wreck" illustrates the difficulty in identifying old shipwrecks. It is described as a low wooden wreck, 100 yards off the beach in 12 feet of water, over a mud bottom. It is almost certainly the remains of an eighteenth or nineteenth century sailing ship.

Many vessels are listed in historical records as lost at "Squan", or "Squam", "Squam Beach", or any number of variations of what we now call Manasquan. Modern-day Manasquan is a small town just to the north of the Manasquan inlet; it has approximately one mile of beach.

In 1685, the entire area from Manasquan south was named Squan Beach. This includes the towns of Manasquan, Point Pleasant, Bayhead, Lavallette, and Seaside Heights, among others, as well as Island Beach State Park. One old account gives the former location of Cranberry Inlet ( closed in 1815, now Seaside Heights ) as "Squan Beach, " and as late as 1878, Lavallette itself was referred to as "Squan Beach." Therefore, a wreck reported at "Squam Beach" could actually be anywhere between Sea Girt and Barnegat inlet !

In early times, these desolate barrier islands were practically uninhabited, with few roads, landmarks, or witnesses to events. Eventually, lifesaving stations were erected, but even these were miles apart - Manasquan, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Chadwick Beach and Toms River. Thus, old accounts are likely to be extremely imprecise, if not outright wrong. Add to that primitive communications, sloppy reporting, lost records, shifting sands, and years of pounding by the ocean surf, and it is not hard to understand why so many shipwrecks have never even been found, let alone identified.

Several possible identities for the Lavallette wreck are listed below - ships that are known to have been lost at "Squam", but have never been positively identified as any particular wreck site.


NJ Coast Chart

Shipwreck Argyle
Detail from painting, 1880

shipwreck, sailing ship, Canada
( 107 x 24 ft ) 408 tons
6 crew & passengers
Sunday, January 28, 1855
ran aground in storm - 5-10 casualties
12 feet

Shipwreck Argyle
Detail from painting, 1880

Launched at Eel Brook on November 11th, 1848 the Argyle was described as a "beautiful modeled barque, a first class vessel built of the best material, copper fastened and is ironed kneed throughout." ( Knees were angular shaped pieces of iron or timber which were used to fasten the horizontal deck beams to the vertical frames - iron was stronger and took up less space in the hold and, therefore, meant a better-built vessel. )

Yarmouth Herald 1 February, 1855 p2:


The following telegraphic dispatch has been received by E.W.B. Moody, Esq.:

New York, Jany 30.
E.W.B. Moody, Esq., Yarmouth.
Argyle totally lost Sunday night, Squam Beach - one man saved - five left on wreck.

The Argyle was owned by E.W.B. Moody, Esq. - and commanded by Capt. James Burton and was from Glasgow bound to New York with a cargo of iron. Vessel and freight insured at the Yarmouth Office to the extent of L2000.

Record of the Shipping of Yarmouth, N.S. pp230-233:

Distressing Shipwreck!


The Barque "Argyle, " of Yarmouth, 408 tons, Captain James Burton, sailed from Glasgow, Scotland, for New York on Christmas Day, 1854, with a cargo of iron, and went ashore on Sunday night, 28th January, 1855, at Squam Beach, about twenty-nine miles below Sandy Hook, New York.

The shock was sudden - the waves immediately began to break over the vessel with terrific fury, and those on board, eleven in number, were compelled to seek safety in the rigging. They could see the shore indistinctly, about three hundred yards off, but as they could not venture on deck for the purpose of forming a raft, they were compelled to remain in the rigging, hoping that the long-wished-for morning might bring them some assistance. There was one passenger, a Scotchman, who, with one of the hands, a boy about 16 years old, was swept overboard with the same wave which carried away the boats. The others lashed themselves to the masts, with the exception of one seaman, the only person of the whole crew who was saved. This man held on by his hands, in the foretop; and after an exposure of fourteen hours on the wreck succeeded in reaching the land by swimming.

At length, after six terrible hours of agony and suffering, during which they were drenched with spray and exposed to the piercing winter wind, the day began to break, and they saw a vessel about half a mile from them. They made signals and were answered, but whatever hope they might have entertained when they first observed her, vanished, as she proceeded on her course without taking further notice of them. It was, in fact, impossible to give them any assistance, situated as they were in the midst of breakers. No attempt, however, was made, and they now watched the shore with the most intense anxiety, as their last hope. They were soon gratified with the sight of a man; and in less than half, an hour after there were some twenty or thirty on the beach. They had been observed by some person connected with the lighthouse, who obtained all the assistance he could. At this time there were nine men on the wreck, and it was believed that if a rope communication could be made with it and the shore, that they could be saved. The mortar was accordingly brought out, and a ball, with a rope attached, fired over the vessel. One of the crew succeeded in seizing it, and was proceeding to make it fast to one of the masts, when, from some cause, it gave way, and all-subsequent attempts to establish a communication, failed. It is said by some that this failure was attributable to some defect in the mortar or the other apparatus. As it was impossible to save them by this means, one of the persons on the shore volunteered to go off to the wreck in a boat if any others would accompany him ; but there were none daring enough to venture their lives. All but this brave fellow considered it impossible to get through the surf, which was thrown to the height of ten or twelve feet on the beach, and he was accordingly forced to remain a passive spectator of the terrible scene before him.

About twelve o'clock one of the sailors fell from his place on the foretop, and, striking on the deck, was killed. He was afterwards found on the beach, with the front part of his skull broken in. The man who was saved was observed several times in the act of undressing and dressing again, but did not venture to leave the vessel till about two o'clock, after fourteen hours' exposure. Then, without any article of dress upon him except a pair of cotton drawers, he leaped into the sea, and made for the beach, which he succeeded in reaching after a struggle of twenty minutes with the waves, during, which he frequently disappeared from the sight of those on shore. As he was completely exhausted, however, he would doubtless have been swept away by the receding waters had not one of the spectators gone into the surf, with a rope fastened round his waist, and helped him out. He was taken immediately to the house of Mrs. Betsy Chapman, about half a mile distant where he received proper care and attention. An hour or so after, the Captain, evidently emboldened by the success that attended the first attempt, was seen making preparations to leave the wreck. Deliberately taking off his coat and boots, he descended the rigging and running along the side of the vessel, jumped into the sea as far as he was able. As he appeared to be a powerful man, it was thought that he would succeed in reaching the shore safely; and this thought was confirmed, as they saw him about half way from the vessel struggling with unabated vigor. Their hopes were soon dispelled, however, as they saw him overwhelmed by a huge wave, after which he was seen no more till his body was thrown up by the sea upon the beach amid the fragments of the wreck.

The vessel now began to break up, and the poor sufferers, exhausted by cold and long exposure, fell off one by one, until only five were left. There they were, within three hundred yards of the shore; but those who saw them dare not venture to their assistance, as the waves continued to run high, and it was almost impossible for any boat to clear the surf. Before night closed on the fearful scene, not a living soul was left on the wreck, and the timbers that were occasionally thrown on the shore showed that it would soon go to pieces. Before the next morning, not a vestige remained of the vessel, except a portion of her bows, which, it is supposed, was attached by a chain to the anchor which lay beneath.

All the bodies were found before Tuesday night, some of them eleven miles from the scene of the wreck. Four were taken to Squam, where they were interred in the Methodist graveyard, with appropriate religious services. Three were buried at Point Pleasant, which is about ten miles from the village of Squam.

The name of the seaman saved was Paul DeCosta. He shipped at Glasgow, and belonged to Canso, Nova Scotia. The four bodies which came ashore at Squam were recognized by him as Mr. Jones (mate); and seamen called John (a Frenchman); Augustus (a Frenchman); and Henry Prock, colored man, supposed to be of Indian extraction.

The bodies of the Captain and 2nd Mate were buried at Point Pleasant., Three more bodies came ashore at Shark River, about ten miles from the wreck. The captain's trunk was washed ashore, and taken charge of by Mr. Morriss of Long Beach.

The "Argyle" was owned by E. W. B. and J. W. Moody. [newspaper says J.W. and J.B. Moody] of Yarmouth, N.S. Capt Burton leaves a wife and four children (residing in Carleton) to mourn their sad bereavement. - St. John Courier.

( Item above includes a few additions which were in the original article from the Yarmouth Herald of 15 February, 1855. )

historical accounts & images courtesy of Eric Ruff /
Yarmouth County Museum, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Another ship Argyle is listed as lost "3 miles south of Squan Beach" in March 1852. Listed as a Swedish bark, this is thought to be a different vessel, but may in fact be a transcription error in the records.


NJ Coast Chart

Shipwreck Ayrshire

shipwreck, sailing ship, England
Saturday, January 12, 1850
grounded in storm - 1 casualty

All but one of the approximately 200 passengers and crew were gotten off safely using a surf car. The one casualty was unnecessary - a man tried to cling to the outside of the surf car while his family was inside, and drowned.

Shipwreck Ayrshire
The invention of the lifesaving surf car was a direct result of the sinking of the John S Minturn and many other vessels in a horrific storm several years earlier.

Shipwreck Uncovered on Brick Beach

Dan Radel, November 6, 2014

Timber from a 19th century shipwreck uncovered on Brick beach
Timber from a 19th century shipwreck uncovered on Brick beach

Excavators drilling on Brick beach for a coastal sea wall project unearthed what shipwreck historians believe is a 19th century sailing vessel.Workers made the discovery last week after a specialized drill struck the relic about 20 to 25 feet under the sand, said Dan Lieb, trustee at the New Jersey Shipwreck Museum in the InfoAge Science Center.

"It's a snapshot of history," said Lieb. Experts are still speculating about what type of ship it is. Two ideas being floated around is that the shipwreck is an old barge or possibly the Ayrshire, a Scottish brig that grounded on to a sandbar on Jan. 12, 1850.

"It could be the Ayrshire. Geographically it is about three-quarters of a mile from the location," said Lieb. "It could have drifted from the spot. I don't know what happened to it. It could have been dragged up on the beach and burned for its metal."

The Ayrshire was carrying 201 British and Irish immigrants when it struck a sandbar off what was known as Squan Beach then, a seven-mile stretch of sand from the Manasquan Inlet south to the Cranberry Inlet, which no longer exists, Lieb said.

"If I recall there was only one loss of life," Lieb said. According to Lieb, the Francis life-car, a metal life raft with a roof was deployed to rescue the passengers. The Francis life-car used a pulley system, a line tethered from the shore to the vessel to shuttle passengers to land. The Ayrshire was the first rescue the car was used.

If it's not the Ayrshire, Lieb is confident it is at least a sailing vessel from the early to mid 1800s. He said that could be a barge because barges of that time period were also sailing vessels, not the rectangular-flat box styles of today.

The remnants consist of 98-percent timber, some iron and debris, along with an intact windlass, a device used to release the anchor, which Lieb said is a textbook match for the era. A hawsepipe, where the anchor chain passes through the bow was also discovered.

Lieb believes there is much more to wreck still underground waiting excavation. "A professional archeologist under contract with the state will make a determination on the wreck," said Lieb."

Cornelius Grinnell

NJ Coast Chart

Shipwreck Cornelius Grinnell

shipwreck, sailing ship, USA
( 180 x 38 ft ) 1100 tons
Monday, January 13, 1853
grounded in storm - no casualties

The vessel took a tremendous pounding, but a surf car was used to rescue all 234 persons on board. The history of the Cornelius Grinnell is confused, since she is listed as sunk again in 1885, 5 miles south of Highlands Light. Was she salvaged in 1853, or is this a different vessel with the same name, or is this another record-keeping error? The truth is lost to time.

The Cornelius Grinnell and the John S Minturn were packet ships of the same line, in fact, they were named after the owners.


NJ Coast Chart

Here is a list of vessels lost in the area of discussion up to 1900. Some of these may be offshore, and many were refloated and/or salvaged, so not all are candidates for the Lavallette Wreck. A few have specific locations given, but most are given simply as "Squan" or "Squan Beach, " which could be anywhere. A list like this could never hope to be complete.





1705 Swan brigantine Squan
1809 Benjamin & Elizabeth ship Squan Beach
1809 Joseph ship Squan Beach
1810 Three Friends Squan Beach
1812 Mentor brig Squan Beach
1813 Thistle Squan Inlet
1824 Amity ship Squan Beach
1826 Hannah Ann sloop Squan
1827 Orbit schooner Squan Beach
1827 Solon schooner Island Beach
1827 Florida schooner Island Beach
1827 Lewis ship Island Beach
1828 Marvel brig Island Beach
1828 Mobile brig Squan Beach
1828 Post Boy schooner Island Beach
1830 Thankful Winslow schooner Squan Beach
1830 Etna schooner Squan Beach
1830 Aetna schooner Squan Beach
1830 Sovereign ship Squan Beach
1831 Cape Henry schooner Squan Beach
1832 General Putman ship Island Beach
1832 Mary & Eliza Squan Beach
1832 Hunter brig Squan Beach
1832 Christine Louisa ship Squan Beach
1833 Mary brig Squan
1834 Polmqua sloop Squan Beach
1835 Sovereign (salvaged) ship Squan Beach
1835 A J Donnelson barque Squan Beach
1835 Lydia schooner Cranberry Inlet
1835 Lola May brig Squan Beach
1835 Jonathan Myer schooner Squan Beach
1836 Astros brig Squan Beach
1838 Henry Clay schooner Mantoloking
1838 Ageneria schooner Mantoloking
1839 Gov. Coddington brig Island Beach
1840 John C Jackson schooner Squan Inlet
1840 Potomac schooner Island Beach
1840 Senate schooner Manasquan Beach
1846 John S Minturn ship Squan Beach
1846 Alabama schooner Squan Beach
1849 La Fauvette bark Squan Beach
1850 Orion bark Squan
1850 Ayrshire ship Squan Beach
1852 Argyle bark 3 miles S of Squan
1853 Grand Turk schooner Squan Inlet
1853 Western World ship Spring Lake
1853 Cornelius Grinnell ship Squan Beach
1855 Argyle bark Squam Beach
1857 Minerva ship Cranberry Inlet
1857 Samuel Willets ship near Squan
1857 Clara Brookman ship Squan Beach
1859 John R Stanley schooner Squan Beach
1860 DeWitt Clinton ship 7 miles S of Squan Inlet
1861 Governor Bull brig Squan Beach
1862 Hazard brig Squan Inlet
1864 Monio brig Squan Beach
1864 Elizabeth ship Manasquan
1865 Oriona brig Squan
1865 C Matthews schooner Squan Beach
1865 Flora bark Squan Beach
1866 R G Porter schooner Point Pleasant
1867 G W Hinson schooner Squan Beach
1867 Charles E Pope schooner Squan Beach
1867 Carlotta schooner Squan
1867 Cordula schooner Squan Beach
1867 Creole steamer Bay Head
1869 R C Waldron schooner Squan Beach
1869 M M Merriman schooner Squan Beach
1869 Ann Corbett schooner Squan Beach
1870 Scudd schooner Squan Beach
1870 B C Schriviner schooner Squan Beach
1870 Gilman D King schooner Squan Beach
1870 John Collins schooner Squan Beach
1871 Oneida schooner Squan Beach
1871 Catherine Jackson off Squan
1871 O H Canady schooner Squan Beach
1871 Villotine bark Squan Beach
1871 Aries steamer Cranberry Inlet
1872 Panther steamer Squan Beach
1870 Lizzie Lane sloop Squan Beach
1875 Thomas Fletcher bark Squan Beach
1875 The Queen steamer Squan Beach
1875 M J Forsha sloop Squan Beach
1875 Cora schooner Squan Beach
1876 Eliza Jane schooner Squan Beach
1876 Magdalina brig Cranberry Inlet
1876 AMC Smith schooner Squan Beach
1876 Lillian Cameron brigantine Squam Beach
1877 Margaret & Lucy schooner opposite Toms River
1878 New Jersey bark Squan
1878 Maggie McDonald schooner Wreck Pond Inlet
1878 D C Bradley schooner Squan
1881 Arctic brigantine Squan
1883 Meta ship Mantoloking
1884 C C Dame schooner Bay Head
1885 Peacedale schooner Ocean Grove
1886 Tsengora ship Spring Lake
1886 W C Warner brig Matoloking
1888 Civitas Carrera bark Manasquan **
1888 Andrew H Edwards bark off Island Beach
1890 Lawrence McKenzie schooner opposite Forked River
1892 Henry Davey schooner off Squan
1894 Albert W Smith schooner Squan Beach
1894 Susan H Ritchie schooner between Bay Head & Mantoloking
1899 Aji schooner Island Beach
1900 Oliver Scolfield schooner Chadwick


This wreck was uncovered by a
storm and salvaged in 1937.

Likewise, there are many anonymous fishing snags and other unknown wreckage up and down the coast, any of which could prove to be one of these wrecks. Or, more likely, they have either sunk into the sand or been consumed by the surf.



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



since 2016-09-11