Mystery of Shipwreck Off NJ Solved
The steamer sunk 153 years ago, killing 22
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2013 8:58 AM CDT
An 1852 painting by W.A.K. Martin depicts the ship, USCS Robert J. Walker, which sank June 21, 1860.   (AP Photo/NOAA)

(Newser) – The origins of a shipwreck 10 miles off the southern New Jersey coast have been unknown for some 40 years, but researchers say they have finally solved the mystery. The ship was the Robert J. Walker, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have confirmed—a New York-bound iron-hulled steamer being used by the US Coast Survey to map the Gulf Coast. It collided with a 250-ton schooner headed for Boston on June 21, 1860, killing 20 of the 66 crewmembers on board, reports LiveScience.

The wreck was first found in the 1970s, but it wasn't until recently that NOAA scientists and divers used sonar to map and identify the ship, which had some distinctive features like rectangular portholes. (Interestingly, the NOAA teams investigated the wreck site while doing post-Hurricane Sandy research in the area, at the urging of a retired NOAA captain and a PhD candidate in maritime archaeology at East Carolina University.) A positive ID came in June. The ship will not be raised, reports the AP, but will instead stay underwater for divers to explore. (Click for news of another shipwreck.)

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Dec 8, 2013 1:58 PM CST
As a kid visiting the Jersey Shore one summer, a huge chunk of a wooden hull washed-up on the beach there. My guardians told me that it "was nothing" but I always doubted it; wooden hulled ships probably went out with sails. It reminded me of the ships at the South Street Seaport now.
Aug 28, 2013 12:14 PM CDT
My grandparents had a painting of a sail ship of the same era- It had 2 lanterns lit, red & green on the port side and starboard side respectively. From this painting, obviously there are no lanterns being used at nite, so schooner or later some other fast ship was bound to misjudge their direction & ran into them. It pays to use lights at nite. (Didn't help the Titanic tho, Icebergs don' have lights)
Aug 28, 2013 12:12 PM CDT
Hmmm... One of my ancestors went down with his ship off the New Jersey coast, but I don't know the name of the ship. Many members of the family, past and present have been Coast Guard officers. Family research time.