New Jersey Shipwreck Identified

New York Times reports a lost ship in 1860

Image Credit: NOAA, via CC

A shipwreck near the coastline of New Jersey was found by fishermen in 1970s. It had been quite a haven for the divers over the past 30 years. However, no one knew the name of the ship. Well, that mystery is finally solved. In June 2013, a team of government and university maritime archaeologists identified the shipwreck to be the lost 19th century U.S. Coast Survey steamer, Robert J. Walker.

What happened to Robert J. Walker?

In the early morning hours of June 21, 1860, on stormy seas, the U.S. Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker, an iron-hulled steamer working as a survey ship sailed out. It charted the Gulf Coast – including Mobile Bay and the Florida Keys – in the decade just before the Civil War. It was hit by a commercial schooner when it was transiting from Norfolk to New York. Twenty crew members died. For 153 years, its shipwreck remained a mystery.

Why was it not searched for then?

As the civil war took over the country, the search for the lost ship was abandoned.

How did they identity of the shipwreck ?

You have to thank Hurricane Sandy for that. In late June 2013, the NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson, was surveying the area to chart post-Hurricane Sandy changes in coastal waters. It is important to do that to make sure that the waters are safe for transport. It also transited the area where Robert J. Walker was known to have been lost and laid a memorial wreath on the water. Together with James Delgado, ONMS Maritime Heritage Director, they conducted a day and a half of systematic dives to 85 feet to study, measure and photograph the wreck in an effort to identify and assess its condition. All the information pointed to the fact that the shipwreck indeed belonged to Robert J. Walker.

Delgado said the wreck won’t be raised. It will be open for public and divers.

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