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New Jersey Scuba Diving

Texas Tower #4

Deep Sea Chart

Texas Tower #4

Type:
collapsed radar platform, USAF
Built:
1955, Portland ME USA
Specs:
( 67 ft above water) 6000 tons, 14 crew (minimum)
Sunk:
Sunday January 15, 1961
storm/structural failure/design deficiency - no survivors
GPS:
39°47'56.43" -72°40'08.00" (US Navy 2004)
Depth:
180 ft, starts at 110 ft

The Texas Tower was named for its resemblance to an oil rig. It was one of three Air Force radar platforms placed off the eastern seaboard as part of the DEW ( Distant Early Warning ) Line. ( Towers #1 and #5 were never built. )

Unfortunately, this one was placed in deep water on an unstable mud bottom, whereas the other two were placed in shallow water on a solid, rocky bottom. From the beginning there were structural and stability problems with Tower #4. It was decided to abandon it, but not before the sensitive radar equipment could be removed, to prevent it from falling into the hands of hovering Russian "trawlers."

As a precaution the crew was reduced to a bare minimum. Just before the end, the platform's commander requested desperately that the tower be abandoned, but was ordered to stay on. The entire crew was lost when the tower collapsed in a hurricane. Only two bodies were even recovered.

Texas Tower #4 - New Jersey Scuba Diving Another video from NJScuba.net -- Texas Tower #4 - New Jersey Scuba Diving

Texas Tower #4 - New Jersey Scuba Diving Another video from NJScuba.net -- Texas Tower #4 - New Jersey Scuba Diving

Texas Tower #4, located approximately 75 miles due east of Barnegat Inlet NJ, and 58 miles out of Fire Island Inlet NY, was one of three offshore radar installations ( #1 was never built ) intended to provide advance warning of enemy air attacks, all part of the Distant Early Warning system (DEW line) encircling the United States and Canada. This technology is not used today, as it was quickly made obsolete by newer airborne radars. The "Texas Tower" nickname came from the platforms' resemblance to offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

The first two towers, off of Nantucket and Boston, were driven into a rocky ocean bottom in relatively shallow water ( 50 and 80 foot depths. ) TT #4, however, was more of a challenge. It would stand in 180 feet of water, and rise nearly 70 feet above the surface. The triangular platform measured 187' per side, and the structure weighed 3,200 tons. Each leg was 300' long, 12.5' in diameter, and weighed 450 tons. TT #4 was considered an "engineering triumph" when it was floated into position in the summer of 1957, and was built to withstand winds up to 125 mph and waves up to 60' high. This design was thought sufficient to get the tower through any storm known.

The battering delivered by storms combined with the soft mud and sand which formed the foundation for the Tower's legs, however, soon began to take their toll. Repairs were made after each of the two hurricanes which hit the Tower, but its stability continued to decline, and TT #4 soon earned the nickname "Old Shaky". Most of the 70-man Air Force crew was evacuated near the end of 1960, but a skeleton crew of 28 men ( 14 airmen and 14 civilian repairmen) remained through the winter, despite the urging of the Tower's commander that they all be evacuated until repairs could be completed in the spring. In January of 1961, yet another storm struck the tower. Rescue ships were dispatched, but were too late. On January 15, less than four years after it began operation, Texas Tower #4 disappeared from a rescue ship's radar screen and collapsed into the sea, killing all aboard. The immediate rescue mission, which evolved into a month-long recovery and investigative operation, recovered only two bodies.

Original NJScuba website by Tracey Baker Wagner 1994-1996

For a long time the Texas Tower remained largely intact, propped up at an angle by its remaining leg. However, the latest reports are that over the winter of '99-'00, the tower collapsed even further, the remaining leg having pushed through the deck, leaving the highest point now at 120 ft instead of 65, and sinking lower. Anything interesting is below 140 ft - that's a mighty long boat ride to see a deep junk pile.

Texas Tower #4
The way it used to look.

Strange that with all the government's resources, they couldn't construct a solid tower in 180 feet of water, when just a few years later the oil companies were building similar structures in hundreds or even thousands of feet of water. In the decades to follow, offshore drilling platforms that would dwarf the Texas Tower became commonplace.


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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.

Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
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