Now We Know What Happened With That Wreck Off the Jersey Shore
The hulking wreck has been a regular destination for divers but a riddle to historians: What ship came to rest in 85 feet of water 10 miles off New Jersey’s coastline?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday that it has confirmed that the ship is the Robert J. Walker, an iron-hulled steamer doing mapping work for the U.S. Coast Survey that sank after a violent collision with a 250-ton schooner.
Twenty sailors aboard the Walker died, making it the worst accident in the history of the U.S. Coast Survey or its successor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Walker sank in 1860, when it sank after a collision with the Fanny—(Editor’s note: Collision with the Fanny! Tee hee!)—the aforementioned 250-ton schooner making a run from Philadelphia to Boston. Unfortunately, none of today’s news stories mention the Fanny’s fate. The 250-ton Fanny. The sturdy, sea-going Fanny. The … OK, we’ll stop.
The Walker wreck site initially was discovered in the 1970s by a commercial fisherman. The wreck’s identity has been a mystery despite being regularly explored by divers. Resting 85 feet underwater, the vessel’s identity was confirmed in June as part of a private-public collaboration that included research provided by New Jersey wreck divers; Joyce Steinmetz, a maritime archaeology student at East Carolina University; and retired NOAA Corps Capt. Albert Theberge, chief of reference for the NOAA Central Library.
NOAA’s intent is not to make the wreck a sanctuary or limit diving, but to work with New Jersey’s wreck diving community to better understand the wreck and the stories it can tell.
“We want to enhance the dive experience and support the dive industry with enhanced access to this wreck,” Delgado said. “New Jersey is home to some of the most accomplished wreck divers who not only understand history and wrecks, but who have also been in the forefront of wreck exploration. We look forward to working with them on theWalker.”