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The Sommerstad (Virginia) 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.
 
 

Above: Joel Silverstein with a porthole he recovered from the Virginia Shipwreck in 1992. Photo by Capt. Hank Garvin.

SOMMERSTAD (Virginia Shipwreck)

Many years ago captain Jay Porter announced to his crew that he had found a virgin wreck.  One of the paying customers on his boat overheard him, but thought he said "Virginia"  hence the wreck's given name.

Just recently, ship historian Eric Gary concluded through much research that the wreck we know as Virginia is really a ship called Sommerstad. Although no artifacts that have been brought up off of the wreck positively identify her, all evidence backs up Eric's research. 

The Sommerstad was built in 1906 in Newcastle, England. She was 340 feet long by 47 feet wide and displaced 3,875 tons.  She was powered by 301 nhp triple expansion engines and was owned by A.F. Klaveness Company.

On August 12, 1918,while bound from Norway to New York under the command of Captain George Hansen, the Sommerstad was sunk by the German submarine U-117.  The U-117 had fired a torpedo at her starboard side. The lookout man on board Sommerstad reported sighting the wake from the torpedo and watched as it just missed his ship's bow. The torpedo then did something very strange and horrifying; it turned around and headed back, striking the Sommerstad amidships on her port side. Within minutes, she was gone. Later some would speculate that the German torpedo was radio controlled, but U.S. Naval experts were convinced that the torpedoes gyroscope was not working correctly, causing the abnormal path. The entire crew had the good fortune of escaping with just a few minor injuries. All 31 men rowed for a full day before being spotted by the Coast Guard.

The Sommerstad or Virginia, as she is more commonly known, rests in 180 feet of water 36 miles from Fire Island Inlet. Captain John Lachenmayer describes her as a looking like the Iberia wreck but larger, with her propeller and boilers easily recognizable.
 

 
      

 

 

 

 
 

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