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The H.M.S. Culloden 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.
 

H.M.S. CULLODEN

DIRECTIONS:             (Montauk, Suffolk County)
Take Southern State Parkway to Exit 44 East, Sunrise Highway. Stay on Sunrise to Montauk Highway. Continue on Montauk Highway past the town of Montauk, and make a left turn onto Edgemere Street,  which will turn into West Lake Drive.  Follow this to the end and turn left onto Soundview Drive. Take Soundview until it turns into a dirt road, at which point you will have to continue straight ahead for .2 miles. Turn right onto another dirt road (no name) and continue to the end.  There is an abandoned overturned car here which makes a good landmark.

CONDITIONS
The H.M.S. Culloden is one of the oldest and most historical shipwrecks that beach divers can explore off Long Islands coast. The Culloden was a 170 foot by 47 foot, 74-gunEnglish frigate, commissioned on May 18th, 1776.  The Culloden was armed with twenty - eight 32 ponders, twenty -eight 18 ponders and eighteen 9 pound cannons.

On January 22, 1781,the Culloden under the command of Captain Balfour, along with the vessels America and the Bedford waited in Block Island Sound for several French warships that were reportedly about to run the British blockade. The next night brought not the French warships but a powerful gale. The three British ships headed for the open sea to ride out the storm. The Culloden, with Third Lieutenant John Cannon on at watch,  was following Bedford's lights. At around 12:30 AM the Bedford came about. Captain Balfour of the Culloden decided to maintain course, but ordered a sounding to be taken every half hour. At 4:00 AM Long Island's coastline loomed directly in front of the Culloden. Before any action could be taken the ship went aground. After the storm,  had ended every possible effort was made to re-float the Culloden but nothing could be done. The Culloden had been severely damaged. Captain Balford ordered that everything valuable be transferred to shore. Later he sent a boat to Gardiner's Island to report the disaster. The vessels William and the brig Adventure were sent to salvage the Culloden's cannons, gun carriages and anchors. The only guns left aboard her where her obsolete 32 pound iron cannons, but even these were spiked so they would not be salvaged and put to use by the French or Americans. After salvaging was complete the Culloden was set afire and burned to the waterline.  This was done so the vessel would be of no use to the American Revolution.

In July of 1781,despite British efforts to render the guns useless, Joseph Woodbridge of Groton, Connecticut salvaged 16 of the Culloden's 23 pound cannons and offered them to General George Washington.


Today, this once proud "Ship of the Line" rests in about 20 feet of water just off Culloden Point in Montauk.  The wreckage lies on a compass course of 330 degrees from the big rock on the beach.  The wreck lies only about 150 feet off shore. If you get deeper than about 25 feet, you have passed her.  Once the wreck is located, divers will note that not too much wreckage remains exposed above the sand.  A testimony to the constant pounding of winter storms are the wreck's scattered remains which have been buried beneath the ever-changing sand bottom. Just north of her wreckage about ten feet from the nearest visible wood plank are four of her steel cannon's. The cannons all face towards shore and are always almost completely covered with sand. Many divers have passed right over them, thinking they were only rocks. Inshore from her cannons and on the eastern most edge of the wreck divers can still see cannon balls. During the summer of 1992, diver Mike McMeekin and I located a5th cannon on the site. This cannon is inshore and west of the main group. Again, most of the wreck is covered in sand so fanning may be necessary to recognize the cannons.

A few years back this wreck was heavily salvaged with an air lift, but divers who are lucky enough to dive here should keep an eye out for some of the remaining cannons and cannonballs.  The cannons are rumored to weigh over 10,000 pounds and have a diameter similar to a large garbage can.  The Culloden is the only local shipwreck on the National Register of Historic Shipwrecks and as such is a protected site. Divers should take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but bubbles when exploring this historic shipwreck.  Recently, there has been talk about making the Culloden an underwater park. The plan, as stated in a recent magazine article, is to build a museum on Culloden Point and set up a guided underwater tour. At this point I don't know the exact plans or implications to divers but I am to say the least a little skeptical. First I hope they don't charge divers to visit the site and two I hope they do actually continue to allow access to the site. I was recently denied permission to even look at the one Culloden cannon on exhibit at the East Hampton Town Marine Museum. Although this museum is open to the public once they found out that I was a diver the doors were slammed shut. Apparently the so called museum does not want to encourage recreational diving. Unfortunately I fear the same type of discrimination may take place with the planned underwater park. As a side note I feel that divers, as long as diving access remained unchanged, would strongly support a Culloden Museum located on Culloden Shores. Wouldn't it be nice if local authorities took into consideration the rights and needs of the only group of citizens currently enjoying the Culloden Wreck, when planning for an "underwater park". 

 Aqua Explorer Productions has produced a half hour H.M.S. Culloden episode of there Dive Wreck Valley Video Series.

Finally for those who do want to visit this site I would strongly recommend planning a dive here before the underwater park project is implemented. Once the local government takes hold sport diver could loose the access to this fascinating historical shipwreck.


 

HMS Culloden. Photo Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.

Capt. Dan Berg uncovers one of the Culloden Wrecks cannon. Photo by Joe Koppelman.

Aerial photo of the HMS Culloden. Photo by Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.

Capt. Dan Berg uncovers one of the Culloden Wrecks cannon. Photo by Joe Koppelman.

Sketch of the HMS Culloden. Photo Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.

Capt. Dan Berg navigates to the Culloden Wreck. Photo by Joe Koppelman.


 

 
   

 

 

 

 
 

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