NJ coast shipwreck is steamer that sank in 1860 - New York News

NJ coast shipwreck is steamer that sank in 1860

Posted: Updated:
NOAA photo NOAA photo

By DAVID PORTER | AP

The hulking wreck has been a regular destination for divers but a riddle to historians: What ship came to rest in 85 feet of water 10 miles off New Jersey's coastline?

Now, federal officials have an answer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday that it has confirmed that the ship is the Robert J. Walker, an iron-hulled steamer doing mapping work for the U.S. Coast Survey that sank 153 years ago after a violent collision with a 250-ton schooner.

Twenty sailors aboard the Walker died, making it the worst accident in the history of the U.S. Coast Survey or its successor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The wreck was discovered by fishermen in the 1970s but its identity was a mystery until June when a NOAA ship conducting surveys for navigation safety in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy made a positive identification. Retired NOAA Capt. Albert Theberge and Joyce Steinmetz, a Ph.D. candidate in maritime archaeology at East Carolina University, provided impetus for the project.

"It's estimated there are 3 million shipwrecks in the waters of the world," said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for NOAA's office of national marine sanctuaries. "You can't go out and look for every one, but sometimes the situation arises when you have an opportunity to do that. This was a perfect convergence of opportunity."

Delgado said the Walker could be one of the last remaining shipwrecks to be identified off the New Jersey coast. According to NOAA, the ship's unique engines and rectangular portholes were key identifying features. It was still pointed toward Absecon lighthouse, where it likely was trying to head before it sank.

Built in 1847, the Walker did survey work charting the waters of the southern United States and contributed to the opening up of many ports on the Gulf Coast to increased commerce, according to NOAA. Its work also helped chart harbors that would become strategically important for the Union Navy in the looming Civil War.

On the night of June 21, 1860, the Walker was heading north to New York when it collided with the schooner Fanny, headed from Philadelphia to Boston. In a newspaper interview, the ship's quartermaster described the scene as the steamer sank within about 30 minutes.

"The men stayed by the steamer until she was sinking, and then, without confusion, such of them as could took to the boats," Charles Clifford told the New York Herald. "Many of the crew went down with the steamer, however, clinging to the spars and portions of the wreck. ... The captain stayed on board until the steamer went down, and just before she disappeared from sight jumped into the water, and was picked up by one of the boats."

Perhaps due to the approaching Civil War, the U.S. Coast Survey didn't conduct an inquiry into the cause of the collision or assign responsibility, NOAA notes.

Delgado said the wreck won't be raised, and said he hopes it can be used as a tool for educating the public on shipwrecks and creating interest in diving.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • New Jersey NewsNew Jersey NewsMore>>

  • Port Authority could rescind $1 NJ Transit lease

    Port Authority could rescind $1 NJ Transit lease

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 2:57 PM EDT2014-04-23 18:57:07 GMT
    NJ TransitNJ Transit
    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is holding its monthly board meeting, two days after it heard from a panel on what it needs to do to improve its accountability and efficiency and restore public trust.
    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey could rescind a $1-a-year lease for a park-and-ride lot near the Lincoln Tunnel. The agency's chief of real estate and development told a committee Wednesday that it should change a deal made in 2012. Published reports have alleged that former Port Authority chairman David Samson voted to approve the lease even though his law firm did business with New Jersey Transit, which operates the park-and-ride lot.
  • Manchester police officers successfully help deliver baby with wrapped cord

    Manchester police officers successfully help deliver baby with wrapped cord

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 2:13 PM EDT2014-04-23 18:13:53 GMT
    As he tried to assist in the delivery of a newborn, Manchester Officer Joseph Fastige noticed the umbilical cord was wrapped around the child’s neck. He was able to get his fingers around the cord and safely unwrapped it. That quick-thinking - and perhaps life-saving - move was one of several Manchester officers made when they delivered a newborn child last week.
    As he tried to assist in the delivery of a newborn, Manchester Officer Joseph Fastige noticed the umbilical cord was wrapped around the child’s neck. He was able to get his fingers around the cord and safely unwrapped it. That quick-thinking - and perhaps life-saving - move was one of several Manchester officers made when they delivered a newborn child last week.
  • Top 20 schools in New Jersey

    Top 20 schools in New Jersey

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 2:11 PM EDT2014-04-23 18:11:21 GMT
    Patch has listed the top 20 schools listed on U.S. News and World Report's rankings of the top high schools in the nation. The rankings include data on more than 19,400 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. US. News and World Report has released its rankings of the top high schools in the nation.
    ?Patch has listed the top 20 schools listed on U.S. News and World Report's rankings of the top high schools in the nation. The rankings include data on more than 19,400 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. US. News and World Report has released its rankings of the top high schools in the nation.
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Camilla's brother dies in New York after head injury

    Camilla's brother dies in New York after head injury

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:04 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:04:50 GMT
    The brother-in-law of the Prince of Wales died Wednesday after falling outside a hotel bar and suffering a head injury, police said. Mark Shand, the brother of Prince Charles' wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was in New York for a charity auction at Sotheby's.
    The brother-in-law of the Prince of Wales died Wednesday after falling outside a hotel bar and suffering a head injury, police said. Mark Shand, the brother of Prince Charles' wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was in New York for a charity auction at Sotheby's.
  • Deep split in Port Authority over unfinished WTC tower

    Deep split in Port Authority over unfinished WTC tower

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:03 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:03:40 GMT
    Board members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey revealed a deep split Wednesday over the agency's role in effecting the completion of the long-delayed 3 World Trade Center project, with some commissioners lauding the effort and others expressing grave concerns. The discussion at the monthly board meeting offered a rare glimpse into the negotiations that have been going on behind the scenes in recent months.
    Board members of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey revealed a deep split Wednesday over the agency's role in effecting the completion of the long-delayed 3 World Trade Center project, with some commissioners lauding the effort and others expressing grave concerns. The discussion at the monthly board meeting offered a rare glimpse into the negotiations that have been going on behind the scenes in recent months.
  • God's Love We Deliver virtual bake sale for birthday cakes

    God's Love We Deliver virtual bake sale for birthday cakes

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:36 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:36:46 GMT
    God's Love We Deliver provides meals to people in the New York City area who are too sick to shop and cook for themselves. Clients also receive birthday cards that are decorated by local school students. Sometimes a cake is the only birthday gift that God's Love's clients will receive.
    God's Love We Deliver provides meals to people in the New York City area who are too sick to shop and cook for themselves. Clients also receive birthday cards that are decorated by local school students. Sometimes a cake is the only birthday gift that God's Love's clients will receive.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices