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The Delaware Shipwreck  New Jersey's (Wreck Valley)

Historical and current New Jersey Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers and fisherman.

The Delaware was a 250 foot long by 37 foot wide Clyde Line steamer that displaced 1,646 gross tons. She was built in 1880, by Birely, Hill & Streaker, in Philadelphia.

 On July 9, 1898, the Delaware, which had recently been refitted to accommodate passengers, was steaming five miles offshore.  At 10:00 PM,  the captain received a report that there was a fire in her hold. The crew tried to contain the blaze, but it was soon apparent that the fire was out of control. Captain A.D Ingram gave the order to abandon ship. His crew of 38 and all of the 35 passengers calmly boarded her life boats. By this time, the entire ship was on fire and nearby vessels came to her assistance. Captain Ingram was the last to leave the sinking ship. Aside from a few burns, there were no serious injuries.

The Delaware's still floating hulk was taken in tow by one of Merrit Chapman's tugs, but she slipped beneath the waves before making it to shore.

 Today, this wreck is very popular with New Jersey divers. She is located in 65 to 70 feet of water about two miles off Bay Head, New Jersey. Her broken down charred remains hold many interesting artifacts. The Delaware was also rumored to be carrying $250,000 in gold bouillon.  I first dove this wreck aboard George Hoffman's boat. By digging, Bill Campbell and I were able to find a few old bottles. What made the bottles from this site interesting was that they were fused together by the intense heat of the fire that sunk the Delaware. In the fall of 1989, Bill Davis found and recovered the Delaware's brass bell. In 1995 Capt Steve Bielenda and I were digging for artifacts on the wreck. George Hoffman had told us about the rumored cargo of gold. As we blasted away the sand with a scooter I noticed a tinny flicker of gold. It looked like a small melted piece of gold. Steve and I spent the entire dive harvesting would appeared to be gold dust or melted jewelry. When we climbed back aboard the Sea Lion Capt George told us he had done the same thing once and that what we really had was only melted brass.

Photo Don Wolley with pipes recovered from the Delaware shipwreck. Photo by Dan Berg.

Capt. George Hoffman with tomb stone recovered from the Delaware's cargo. Photo by Dan Berg.

Underwater Photo by Herb Segars: Beth Dalzell of Brick, New Jersey shoots video on the Delaware. The Delaware was a coastal steamship of the Clyde Lines, who's route was New York to Havana. She carried general cargo and passengers, and was approximately 1,600 tons and 250 feet long. On a trip out of New York she caught fire and burned to the waterline, and later sank while being towed by salvagers. The Delaware was powered by a coal-fired steam engine. She was built in 1880 and sunk on July 9, 1898 in 70' off water off the coast of New Jersey, USA.

Underwater Sketch of the Delaware Shipwreck by Capt Dan Berg and Dan Lieb





Side Scan sonar image of the Delaware shipwreck courtesy Capt. Bill Cleary.


Artifacts recovered from the Delaware shipwreck by divers from Capt. Bill Cleary dive boat Depth Charge. Image courtesy Bill Cleary.


Delaware Bell Recovery 10-23-2010

by Harry Maisch IV on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 12:26pm
Some called it pure luck, others fate. The following is my account of the day I made the find of a lifetime: finding the Delaware's bow bell.

I was originally signed up to crew aboard the Gypsy Blood on Saturday October 23, but after receiving the schedule for my fall semester field studies class, which is held on certain Saturdays, I was deeply saddened to find out that I would have to give up my crew spot for class. Luckily the infamous Bartman (perhaps you’ve heard of him) was able to cover me. A few weeks ago, my professor announced that he was changing the date of the 10/23 class—Yes! I might still be able to dive! Fellow diver, Brian Karasik (another big fan of the Delaware ) invited me to do a bottle dive with him and some friends and since I wasn’t crewing at that time I jumped at the opportunity. Then suddenly, a few days before the week of the 23rd, Alek Petersen (who was supposed to crew aboard the Gypsy Blood on the 23rd), was looking for someone to cover his spot since the Oil Wreck was calling his name. Brian quickly alerted me to this opening saying, “You have a second chance,” and I reclaimed a spot to crew on the San Saba trip, in turn bailing on the bottle divers. Sorry Guys-I’ll let you take a picture with the bell sometime to make it up to you.

On Saturday, October, 23, 2010 I woke up at 3 AM as I always do when I am scheduled to crew aboard the Gypsy Blood. Having only gotten a few hours of sleep, it was a drag getting to the boat and I was happy to have slept in the parking lot for a few minutes before beginning to haul my gear down the dock. Besides myself, the crew for the day consisted of Bart and Tim. After loading gear and helping customers from the Diversion Group aboard, Capt. Jim gave the dive briefing in the nice, heated cabin. Shortly after, the lines were cast off and we made our way out of the Manasquan Inlet on a southerly course to the wreck of the San Saba- a freighter with a cargo consisting of a multitude of items including brass screws. This ship sunk in 1918 after striking a mine laid by U-117 taking 30 people along with her.

Having had an enjoyable dive on this wreck for the first time back in June 2010 in decent conditions and having recovered a few handfuls of brass screws and a few shotgun shells (some still containing lead shot) which cleaned up nicely, I was looking forward to this return trip.—On 10/23/10, the conditions the Gypsy Blood encountered at the San Saba were not the greatest, and with a strong current reported from the surface to the bottom, a few opted out of doing a dive here; the decision was made to do the day’s second dive further inshore and closer to the inlet. When the wreck of the Delaware was chosen as the next destination, I prayed for better conditions up north—Did I mention the Delaware has always been my favorite wreck??

The Delaware, a Clyde Lines steamship, which was built in 1880 in Philadelphia, PA and sunk on July 9, 1898 after a fire started below decks and burnt the vessel to the waterline (with no loss of life), was en-route from Brooklyn to Charleston and Jacksonville carrying passengers and a general cargo. The Delaware’s final resting place is just a few miles south of the Manasquan Inlet in ≍75 feet of water. Today, the Delaware’s wooden hull can be seen above the sand and mud along with her 4 boilers, engine, prop shaft, and anchor and chain, in addition to other structures.

After arriving at the Delaware, Bart splashed to do the tie-in and shortly after, the pool was open. Conditions here were much nicer and divers quickly geared up and hit the water to do their second dives. With Bart still in the water, and only a few customers remaining aboard, I geared up to do a dive while Tim was to follow me as soon as Bart surfaced after his dive. I finally hit the water and quickly made my way to the downline, switching my light on just in case there wasn’t much ambient light on the bottom. I reached the tie-in point at about 65 ft and was greeted with pleasant 62 degree water and about 15 feet of visibility. I didn’t recognize where I was on the wreck, but I could say that we weren’t near the prop-shaft and I didn’t see the boilers or engine. I quickly found an area to secure my wreck reel to and headed out in search of treasure, passing the Bartman, who was just completing his dive, along the way.-Bart found a decent amount of lead fishing sinkers, a chunk of copper sheathing, and an Indian Head penny.- I started heading along some wooden ribs only to find that most if not all the customers had headed in that direction as well, as there were wreck reels tied-in all over. Not wanting to tangle in anyone’s line, I turned around and headed in the opposite direction. I passed the tie in point, rounded a bend and suddenly saw a small, centimeter-sized “gold” object shining just above the sand maybe a foot off the large mass (winch) we were tied into. I began to hand fan around the object which uncovered a rounded top with a hole in its center and a cylindrical, mid-section shape. After digging deeper, I suddenly saw this cylinder “flare out”. Continuing to dig a little deeper, I was then able to put my fingers under and in the object---the thought of finding a bell that always looms in the back of my mind when diving suddenly shot right to the front.—analyzing the profile off my dive computer, I saw an instant heart rate and air consumption increase—The realization that I had found a bell, a bell from my favorite wreck, the Delaware, hit me with full force! Further digging with my hands and a trusty digging tool exposed more of the bell and I was then able to wrestle it free from the sand and fallen debris, spewing a cloud of dark, coal laden sediment which blacked out the bottom viz in the nearby area for a few seconds. As soon as I got the bell into the sand I thought of putting it in my large goodie bag, but fearing it would rip right through the bottom, I decided to rig and lift it with my 100lb lift bag which I keep alongside a surface marker buoy in one of my drysuit pockets.

Through the corner of my eye I saw movement and looked up to see a fellow diver (Declan) carrying his pole spear about to end his dive. I started yelling through my regulator to gain his attention and possibly use his assistance to “Walk” the bell up the anchor line. Declan came over to make sure everything was ok and then saw what he originally thought was a random concretion while I quickly swam the 10 feet to where my reel was tied-in and untied it, clipping it off to my harness alongside with my catch bags and light. I then pulled a 10 foot piece of nylon line (which I have always carried in case I needed to lift an object or help secure a faulty tie-in: BE PREPARED) out of the OMS pocket attached to my harness and began to secure it to the bell. The bell mount was torn off which left just enough room to loop the rope through twice to keep the bell from sliding while being raised. After clipping the lift bag off to the rope, Declan and I took turns using the exhaust gas from our regulators to inflate the bag. Most of our ascent was fairly controlled, but as we made our way along the Carolina rig, the lift bag began to take off on us and due to a complication with the dump valve, we weren’t able to vent some of the air out. Although in the end, we were successful in preventing the bag from capsizing.

After I swam the bag a short distance to the stern, and reached the ladder, I began yelling and apparently the only discernable word was BELL!! Capt. Jim and Bart came to assist raise the bell from the water while Declan and I quickly made our way up the ladder to join in on the yelling and cheering. My total dive time: 19 minutes.

I’m still shocked by my find.-I like many others had thought the ship's only bell had been recovered in 1989.- I have been collecting fossils such as sharks teeth and 220 million year old dinosaur footprints since I was about 10 years old, but I must say finding this bell beats them all! As Bart said, the day turned around to be a great one. Haha it was like the boat was full of paparazzi with all the cameras snapping photos—What a day!

Thanks again to Alek for wanting to dive the Oil Wreck, Helen and the Diversion Group for deciding to change the destination for the day’s second dive, Tim for letting me gear up and hit the water before he did, Bart for tying us in at such a great location and lending me his green ice pail, Declan for helping assist me on the anchor line, Capt. Jim and the entire crew of the Gypsy Blood for supporting and helping me out those years when I was lucky to get a dive in at all due to seasickness (now not only can I make dives, but I’m able to enjoy them as well), and thanks to anyone else who I may be forgetting to mention at the moment.

As of now, the bell is safely soaking in a fresh water bath. It’s bronze and weighs approximately 40lbs. Rough measurements are as follows: Top diameter: 7 inches (circumference: 22 inches), Height: 8 inches, Base diameter: 13 inches (circumference: 40.8 inches). There is some coral growth on its sides indicating that it was exposed on the surface for some time.—The bell is historically significant regardless of if it has any lettering on it and I intend to preserve it the best I can and if necessary, have it preserved by a professional. Right now, patience is key.

-Another fine day of New Jersey Wreck Diving

Dive Safely,
Harry Maisch IV




Delaware Shipwreck. Image courtesy Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.

Capt George Hoffman and Don with pipes recovered from the Delaware. Photo by Dan Berg

Delaware Shipwreck. Image courtesy Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.

Capt. George Hoffman recovered this tombstone from the wreck "Capt. John Smith". Photo by Dan Berg

Capt. George Hoffman with some of his artifacts from the Delaware shipwreck. Photo by Dan Berg

Sketch of the Delaware Shipwreck by Dan Berg

Coin recovered by George Hoffman from the Delaware Shipwreck. Photo by Dan Berg


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