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The Black Warrior Shipwreck  New York and New Jersey's (Wreck Valley)
Historical and current New York and New Jersey Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers and fisherman.
 

The Black Warrior was built 1852 in New York at a cost of $135,000 and owned by the New York and New Orleans Steamship Co. The wood ship was 225 feet in length and weighed 1,556 gross tons. Aside from being fully rigged with sails, the 37 foot beam was flanked by two steam driven side wheels.

 The Black Warrior carried mail, passengers and cargo through her voyages, most of which were between New York, New Orleans and Havana, Cuba.

 Her most notable voyage was on February 28, 1854, when she was seized by the newly appointed governor of Cuba. The governor stated that the Alabama cotton on board the ship should have been listed for the Havana customs people. Captain Bullock of the Black Warrior tried to explain that since the cotton wasn't being unloaded in Havana, he was within regulations. Despite his arguments, the Captain and his crew were forced to leave the ship while Cuban officials confiscated the cargo. After transferring the Warrior's crew to the American steamer, Fulton, which was then loading in Havana, the Cuban officials imposed a $6,000 fine and detained the Warrior.

 Pro-slavery forces in this country used the Warrior incident as a reason to demand war with Spain. Their hope was to add Cuba as another slave territory. Fortunately, Spain surrendered her position and not only repaid the original fine of $6,000 but an additional compensation of $53,000 for the detention of the Warrior.

mike mcmeekin with a silver fork recovered from the black warrior shipwreck. During another journey in 1857, the Black Warrior was caught in a furious gale. All of her coal was consumed trying to keep the ship running, while her wheel-house and life boats were knocked away by the sea. According to the NEW YORK TIMES, " Captain Smith  manifested the qualities of the cool and skillful." He ordered that all light wood work, furniture and any remaining spars be used as fuel to power her steam engine. His seamanship brought all passengers and crew to safety.

 On February 20, 1859, about 9:00 AM, while trying to enter New York harbor in a heavy fog, the captain of the Black Warrior ran his ship aground on Rockaway Bar. All passengers, crew and cargo were brought safely to New York by the assisting vessels, Screamer, Achilles and Edwin Blount. At first, she was resting easy and no trouble was anticipated in towing her off. Unfortunately, The Black Warrior struck at high tide, and although during the next few days every effort was made to save her, she settled deeper and deeper into the  sand. Finally, on February 24, during high tide, she was moved about one hundred feet  before grounding again. That same day a gale blew up and the once proud Black Warrior was pounded to pieces.

 The Warrior now rests in 30 to 35 five feet of water.  She is all broken up and spread out over a large area.  Although most of her brass artifacts have been recovered, lucky divers may still find anything from brass spikes, silverware, and portholes. Take note that the eating utensils found here have the vessel's name engraved on their handles.  In the past eight years, we have made many dives on this wreck, and although the site is home to some huge black fish which would be great for spear fishing, we have always been content to find a spot in the sand and dig for artifacts. This wreck is only a mile offshore from the Cornelia Soule Wreck.

Aqua Explorers Inc. would like to announce that a 2000 pound ten foot long fluted anchor was successfully salvaged from the wreck of the Black Warrior. Marine Historian and author Daniel Berg coordinated and planned the project with Rich Fryberg of Subsalve Liftbags.

anchor recovered from the black warrior shipwreck. Dan Berg and Steve Bielenda On August 12 of 1994 divers Mike McMeekin, Lou Schriner, Joe Koppelman, Ed Jenny and Rich Fryberg from Subsalve Lift Bags boarded the R.V. Wreck Valley. Led by veteran wreck diver Daniel Berg the team planned on filming photographing and raising the Black Warrior's ten foot long 2000 pound fluted anchor. Heavy salvage requires not only the proper equipment but planning. The team rigged the anchor so she would draw only five feet of water. This was critical since the artifact would have to be towed through several shallow waterways. At 10:00 AM the artifact was raised off the sandy bottom after over 135 years of submersion. The salvage was completed with the use of two 2000 pound Subsalve commercial lift bags which floated the heavy anchor to the surface. Conditions both topside and underwater were perfect the sea was flat calm and visibility underwater exceeded 30 feet. Divers from the Research Vessel WRECK VALLEY then began the long twelve hour tow back to shore. A few days latter a tow trucks hydraulic winch was utilized to haul the anchor onto shore. Local TV and Newspaper reporters were on hand to interview the divers as well as photograph the dynamic scene. The Black Warrior's anchor is now undergoing a lengthy preservation and restoration process after which she will be put on display. The entire operation was filmed and photographed for use not only in an upcoming book project, but also to air on SPORTSCHANNEL cable Networks ongoing DIVE WRECK VALLEY television series.  

 

Steve Bielenda and Dan Berg with anchor salvaged from the Black Warrior shipwreck.

Gold ring recovered from Black Warrior shipwreckBack on 10-28-01 Capt Ed Slater surfaced from his dive and asked if I could go down and help him recover a large pc of brass. The brass looked like a screen but was wedged under the wreck. Ed had spent his entire dive working on the artifact but was now running low on air. I jumped in and quickly found the spot. Visibility had cleared a bit and I could see a rock wedging the brass in place. It only took a couple minutes and Ed's artifact was free. It was then that I noticed a shinny object half buried in the sand. Ed had found a strainer from a sink. I found a gold ring which had once been lost in the Black Warrior's plumbing.

 

 

 

Scanning sonar image of the Black Warrior after Hurricane Irene 2011. Compare this image to the side scan image above to see how much of the wreck was exposed from the storm.

 

Black Warrior shipwreck artifacts. Courtesy Al Golden

Denise and Chris Berg with Black Warriors Anchor. Photo by Dan Berg

Sketch of the Black Warrior Shipwreck site. By Daniel Berg

Black Warrior sunk 1859. Courtesy Wreck Valley Collection

Porthole from Black Warrior sunk 1859. Courtesy Wreck Valley Collection

Side Scan sonar image of the black warrior shipwreck area. Note the boiler and mast. Copyright Wreck Valley/ Capt. Dan Berg

Capt. Ed Slater with a brass artifact recovered from the Black Warrior wreck in 2005. Photo by Dan Berg.

Photos: Black Warrior sunk 1859. Courtesy Wreck Valley Collection
Mike McMeekin with a fork from the Black Warrior
Steve Bielenda with anchor salvaged from the Black Warrior

 
 
 
 

Aqua Explorers Inc.
2745 Cheshire Dr
Baldwin NY 11510
Phone/Fax 516 868-2658
E-Mail
Wreckvalle@aol.com

 

 

 
 

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