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

(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.)

An 1852 painting by W.A.K. Martin depicts the ship, USCS Robert J. Walker, which sank June 21, 1860.
An 1852 painting by W.A.K. Martin depicts the ship, USCS Robert J. Walker, which sank June 21, 1860.   (AP Photo/NOAA)
An undersea diver lights the paddlewheel from the ship, USCS Robert J. Walker, which sank June 21, 1860,.
An undersea diver lights the paddlewheel from the ship, USCS Robert J. Walker, which sank June 21, 1860,.   (AP Photo/NOAA)
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