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The Edwin Duke Shipwreck  New York's (Wreck Valley)

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

 The Edwin Duke is a tug boat wreck. This wreck lies one mile northeast of the Stone Barge in about 52 feet of water. Her super structure is completely gutted, but her remains attract good amounts of black fish during the summer months.

 Although I have been able to find no documentation as to the date or cause of her sinking, Captain Frank Persico, tells me the following story that was told to him by the late Al Bohem, a noted wreck diver and local historian.

 Around the year 1930, the Edwin Duke was towing a barge with a load of stones to be used on one of the Jones Beach jetties. The tug and barge were caught in a storm. Apparently, the barge began to take on water and was soon dragging the Edwin Duke under. In a last ditch effort the crew of the Duke cut the barge free. The barge has now become known as the Stone Barge and is a popular lobster dive. Unfortunately, it was too late for the little tug. Instead of staying afloat, she inevitably sunk.

  The bow of the Edwin Duke is now lying on its port side on a sand and mud bottom. A trawler's net covers some of the wreck's starboard bow. Amidships, there is no recognizable super structure. In the vessel's stern, her rudder stands up in the sand. This wreck has been picked pretty clean, but she still produces an occasional porthole, lobsters, some small brass artifacts, and lots of anchors. The anchors, from private fishing boats, get caught in the net that is draped over part of the wreck and must then be cut out. 

In July of 1989, Rick Schwarz and I dove the Duke. I was swimming along her port side when I saw a round flat rim sticking out of the mud. I pulled on it and felt around it. It was hinged to a solid swing plate. My imagination ran a little wild. I thought I had found an intact port hole. Visibility by now was only inches due to the kicked up sediment. I pulled as hard as I could, and the port hole slid out of the mud. Quickly dragging it away from the poor visibility, I found that my prized artifact was not a port hole as I had hoped, but rather a worthless toilet seat and cover. You can't win them all.  

I received the following e-mail from Gary DuBois. "I can offer your a lot more information since my grandfather Joseph Dowd, 1900 1974 (an ex navy mine sweeper captain) was the captain of her when she sunk.  While she was sinking they lost communications and my grandfather ordered the men to abandon the ship. However, he stayed aboard and used the ships lights to signal an SOS. Out of the night came the US Coast Guard cutter Lake Pontchartrain and all aboard were rescued. My grand father wrote a poem about the event on his way back to Brooklyn that my brother still has to this day. Later that evening after getting much needed rest, he made it to his bowling league'. Gary also reports that the Duke cast of the barge she was towing before sinking. Gary promises additional information on the Duke which I will post as it arrives.

THE FATE OF THE TUG "EDWIN DUKE"
By: Captain Joe Dowd

 Three tugs, four scows, seven in all,
Left from Coney Island seawall.
The weather was fine, the stars shone bright,
As we started for Fire Island that night.

The "Gerd Henges",, "Helen Barbara" and "Edwin Duke" set forth,
As a light wind blew from the west and north.
The sea was calm as a lake, I'd say,
While we lengthened hawser and got on our way.

We sailed through the night with comparative ease,
But the temperature dropped and began to freeze.
We never saw a more beautiful dawn,
As the sun rose gloriously the next morn.

We landed our tow safely at fire Island dock;
You know, that place where they use that rock.
The time was shortly after noon,
As we got ready to start back very soon.

We lined up four empty scows in tow,
And out the inlet we started to go.
The weather was still fine as the tow took form,
While the Coast Guard Towers showed no warning of storm.

About 3PM clouds darkened the sky,
As strong southwest winds sent waves rolling high.
For three hours we tossed around like a cork,
Many miles away from New York.

Later on our main hawser let go,
And the "Gerd Henges" went back and recovered the tow.
We were guiding our tow with very much pain,
Stretching out more hawser to relieve the strain.

The wind was now blowing in a gale,
While we were moving with the speed of a snail.
The great seas caused our main hawser to snap again,
And by great work, the "Gerd Henges" saved the scows and men.

We hooked on again and seemed to be holding our own,
When a flashing light from the scows was shown.
By now it was dark night,
Which made it a more hazardous plight.

This time the last three scows let go,
When the "Edwin Duke' went after them you know.
We got our hawser on the first scow's middle bit,
Just as our bottom the bar did hit.

The wind was increasing more and more,
As our tow was drifting rapidly towards shore;
We were now in the breakers dangerously,
When it healed the "Duke" out towards the sea.

The engines were ordered at full speed,
And treacherous was our position, indeed.
We could see that we could do no more,
Than to let the scows go and they drifted ashore.

We then got the "Duke" in water deep,
While the other tugs had one scow to keep.
By now the "Duke" had started to leak,
And water was filling the after peak.

We were now struggling to keep afloat,
While waves were covering our tug boat.
It was now about nine twenty-four,
When water was covering the engine room floor.

Our tug was filling rapidly,
As water poured in with every sea.
Our after deck was under now,
And all could be seen was the little tug's bow.

The "Duke" was making a gallant fight,
As we put on our life belts and tied them tight.
"All hands on top deck" was the next order,
As the lower deck went under water.

We prepared to put off in our little life boat,
But I'm sure, in the sea, she would never stay afloat.
An amazing thing happened that night,
It was our lights; they still kept burning bright.

A few miles off a ship was passing by,
And we flashed our searchlight to get his eye.
We wouldn't believe our eyes when we did see,
For a Coast Guard ship it turned out to be.

An "S.O.S." we flashed in Morse,
And the Coast Guard quickly changed his course.
Our legs were wet, our feet were numb,
While hoping in time the ship would come.

"We're sinking fast" we flashed in turn,
While the Coast Guard was coming with speed to burn.
A wave then hit us an awful thump,
As we stood on the rail, ready to jump.

Finally the Coast Guard reached our side,
And we were so happy we could cried.
They put on a searchlight it was bright,
That it lit up the sea like broad daylight.

They lowered a lifeboat with sailors brave,
And snatched us from a watery grave.
Before we bring this story to an end,
The U.S. Coast Guard we must commend.

And what do you think was this fine ship's name?
It was the pride of the service the "PONCHARTRAIN".
A gift from the heaven she was indeed,
And we wish her and her men Godspeed!

Capt. Joseph Dowd, was the Captain on the fateful day the Duke went down. Photo is of Capt. Dowd as Santa on Christmas morning aboard the Edwin Duke. The exact year is unknown. Photo courtesy Gary DuBois

 

 

 
     
 

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