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Popular wreck dives along our Delaware and Maryland coast


CHEROKEE: Depth: 100 ft. Also known locally as the "Gunboat" because of the deck gun mounted on the bow before it was established that she was the Cherokee, a U.S. Navy tugboat that foundered in a summer storm. Built: 1891. Sank: 1918. Length: 120 ft. Sits upright in the sand, relatively intact as local wrecks go. Drop over the stern to see the massive rudder.


DELILAH: Depth: 100 ft. Commercial tugboat sunk as part of the Delaware Artifical Reef Program on January 15, 1999. Donated by the locally well-known DiFebo family. Length: 90 ft. Large fish have been quick to inhabit this wreck and it is a nice change of pace from the usual wreck sites as it is obviously still intact and can be dived in tri-level fashion.


INDEPENDENCE DAY: Depth: 110 ft. A favorite lobster wreck and home to some large tautog and sea bass. Also known as the "Bimbo Wreck". Appears to be a 19th century wooden sailing ship of unknown origin. Low lying ribs and decking spread out over an area the size of a football field.


FENWICK SHOALS WRECKS
: Home to several broken up low lying wrecks with boilers present on both the inner and outer sites. There can be a mild to stiff current and there is virtually always a surge. This is a popular spot for spear fishing, especially with the long bottom times, and small lobsters inhabit the many nooks and crannies as well. Most of the wrecks are covered by bright yellow encrusting sponge and myriad starfish. On good visibility days, divers can be seen on the bottom from the surface. Among the many inhabitants of the shoals are stingrays, tautog, sea bass, trigger fish, butterfly fish, puffer fish and the occasional stargazer or turtle.
Outer Fenwick: From the Pilot Journals "On April 18, 1896 the tug North American left the Delaware Breakwater Wednesday with a corp of United States torpedo officials bound to Fenwick's Island Shoals, to blow up the numerous wrecks in that vicinity...The wrecks of the British steamship Brinkburn, the Norwegian bark Siam and other craft which have ended their existence there will be destroyed." Construction of the wrecks on the outer shoals is steel or iron, steam powered screw approximately 150 ft. long. Depth: 25 ft.
Inner Fenwick Also known as the "Boiler Wreck", construction is also steel or iron, steam powered and approximately 300 ft. long. In Gary Gentile theorizes that the site could be the Sutton, a steel-hulled freighter than sank in 1900. It is very broken up and low lying. The boiler is a prime "hot spot" for spear fishing. Depth: 35 ft.


JOSEPH E. HOOPER: Wooden schooner barge. Length: about 300 ft. Depth: 50 ft. Built: 1921. Foundered and sank in November 1945. A good novice dive. Located near Fenwick Shoals. Home to tautog, sea bass and lobsters.


AFRICAN QUEEN
: Depth: 70 ft. A Liberian registered oil tanker which ran aground in a storm at Gull Shoal off Ocean City, Maryland on her way from Cartegena, Colombia to Paulsburo, New Jersey. Built: 1955 Length: 590 ft. All the men aboard were rescued. The owners sold their claim so the wreck was considered un-owned,thus locals took what they could from the ship. Eventually, a storm ripped off the bow section and carried it over a mile away. A tug was able to tow the stern to dry-dock but the bow was never recovered and lies upside down in the sand, a home to large lobster and fish.


BLENNY: Depth: 70 ft. A Balao-class submarine built during World War II, seeing action in Korea as well as WWII. She saw service until she was retired in 1973. When the Maryland Artifical Reef Program was started, she was ecologically cleaned and sunk in her present location near the African Queen with which she is often dived. There is a wonderful Blenny web site dedicated to her memory which is worth the visit. Built: 1944. Length: 311 ft. She can be easily penetrated due to the 4 large holes cut out of the top of each compartment and the inside hatches were kept in an open position.


Arthur T. Hall : Depth: 110 ft.


SAETIA: Depth: 100-110 ft. A coal-fired steam freighter with a very short life. A World War I casualty mined by the U-117 on November 9, 1918. Built: 1918. Length: 322 ft. This is the outer most of the so called "Twin Wrecks". The other wreck is that of the Oklahoma, a tanker that broke in two on January 4, 1914.


PATTY'S PITCHER WRECK
: Depth: 105 ft. Unidentified wooden wreck generally thought of as a good lobster wreck. She is mainly a series of ribs with lots of nooks and crannies for bugs and fish to hide. The bow sports a large anchor and pony boiler out in the sand. The stern has a large rudder flat on the sand. Several gudgeons have been brought up in the last few years. She is thought by some to possibly be the Singleton Palmer, sister ship to the Elizabeth Palmer. Length: About 200 ft.


WENDY'S WRECK
: Depth: 110 ft. Unidentified wooden wreck with extensive ribs of varying size. A large spread out wreck well worth the visit. A crew favorite and a good bug wreck.


H BUOY
: Depth: 90 ft. Also known as "Sandy's Anchor Wreck" and "H Bar". Large broken up unidentified wooden wreck. The bow section lies low to the sand with the anchor and chain identifying it. The stern section has 10 ft.+ relief with lots of cubby holes for lobsters.


MANHATTAN: Depth: 90 ft. Passenger-freighter which sank in collision with the schooner Agnes Manning. Built: 1879. Sank: 1889. Length: 228 ft. Most of the wreck is flat to the bottom with the hull plates collapsed outward. Two big anchors remain at the bow with the engines and boilers obvious and squares of the cargo holds clearly discernible. A good digging wreck as well as a good lobster wreck. We've seen a ship's lantern, women's high top leather shoes, mantle clock and lots of other goodies come up in recent years.
Below are additional local wrecks that transportation can be arranged to through Aqua Ventures aboard the Surface Interval.


WASHINGTONIAN: Depth: 90-100 ft. Freighter carrying cargo of sugar from Honolulu. Sank in a collision with the Elizabeth Palmer. Built: 1914. Sank: 1915. Length: 407 ft. You can swim right through the bow section which is a hang out for large schools of fish. She lies upside down with the highest relief in the bow at about 20 ft. Swimming aft past the enormous boilers, she breaks down to a mass of large broken hull plates. A favorite lobster wreck, especially on night dives. This is probably the most visited wreck site out of Indian River.


ELIZABETH PALMER: Depth: 80-90 ft. Wooden five-masted schooner, one of the largest American sailing vessels of her time. Sank in collision with the Washingtonian. Built: 1903. Sank: 1915. Length: 300 ft. Long rows of low lying ribs with good hiding places for lobster and tautog.


NINA: Depth: 70-80 ft. Iron hulled U.S. Navy tug which foundered at sea. Built: 1865. Sunk: 1910. Length: 137 ft. A favorite digging wreck continuing to produce many artifacts for the diligent salvage hound. Good "bug" catchers can usually find a lobster if they try. The ribs of the bow are very apparent and are of good relief, but it has started to disintegrate in recent years. Take care with the stern section, as a fishing trawler dropped its net over it in 1994.


SUBWAY STOP
: Depth: 90-100 ft. New York City Transit subway cars from the Redbird Line. Sunk on August 21, 2001 as part of the Delaware Artificial Reef Project.


S.I. WRECK
: Depth: 100 ft. A large wooden sailing vessel of unknown origin. Ribs and decking, obvious bow structure with anchor and chain, rigging with steel deadeyes. A really nice wreck worth exploring for artifacts and/or dinner. We only started diving this wreck in 2001 and are anxious to get to know her better.


U.S. NAVY BARGE: Depth: 70-90 ft. Sunk on October 25, 2000 as part of the Delaware Artificial Reef Program. Surplus Navy barge #YC1479 was towed from the Norfolk Navy Yard. Several dozen holes were cut into her to assure that she would sink in a controlled manner. Good spearfishing opportunities. Good 20 ft. relief and easy navigation along the handrails.


JAKE'S WRECK: Depth: 65-70 ft. Unidentified broken up wooden wreck. A favorite second dive site for many charters. A good wreck for newer divers, although it is very broken up and hard to follow, thus a wreck reel is strongly recommended. The major underwater landmark is a large anchor and chainpile which frequently provide a hiding place for large lobsters. Home to many varieties of fish.


JENNIFER'S WRECK
: Depth: 80 ft. Unidentified wooden wreck, mostly large ribs. A favorite site for lobster. Also known as the "Bingo" wreck. Rarely dived now as so small that only a very small charter would be comfortable on it.


CHINA WRECK: Depth: 45-50 ft. Brigantine or barkentine designated the "China Wreck" because of the cargo of English chinaware she was carrying. Discovered in 1970 during routine hydrographic survey. Length: 160+ ft. Has offered up literally thousands of pieces of china to avid recreational divers over the years. In years past, we noted that she appeared to have burned and sank between 1867 and 1878 because of research in dating the china. In Gary Gentile's 2002 revised edition of Shipwrecks of Delaware and Maryland, there is evidence that the wreck may have been the D.H. Bills which sank in 1880. In spite of the shallow depth, this is not a novice dive due to the heavy current and usually low visibility. Power tools are outlawed. We recommend overweighting by at least 5 lbs. to stay down in the strong current. Although occasional whole pieces of china do still come up, it is usually only with divers of considerable experience, tenacity and ultimately luck.


KING COBRA: Steel-hulled tug which foundered in a winter storm. Built: 1887. Sank: 1979. Length: 67 ft. Depth: 40-50 ft. Intact and upright in the sand near the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Home to some large tautog. Ripping current. Usually dived in conjunction with the China Wreck.


KATHLEEN RIGGIN: Depth: 55-60 ft. A small clammer sunk around 1985-90. Marked by the remains of an unsuccessful salvage lift bag attempt. This vessel is still intact and can be carefully penetrated.


SAN GIL: Depth: 130-140 ft. A freighter carrying bananas which was torpedoed to her watery grave by the U-103 on February 4, 1942. Built: 1920. Length: 325 ft. Although some sections are broken up, the main wreckage is pretty much in one piece with a list to the starboard side. She can be easily penetrated and the boilers are still intact.


MOONSTONE: Depth: 130-140 ft. WWII patrol craft which sank due to collision with the USS Greer (DD-145) October 15, 1943. Built: 1929. Length: 171 ft. The Moonstone was orignially commissioned the Lone Star, a luxury steel-hulled motor yacht sold to the U.S. Navy in 1941. This is the most intact of the deeper wrecks out of Indian River, although she started significant collapse in 1998. Still a very popular dive site, she sits upright in the sand and the engine room can be carefully accessed through the gash cleaved by the USS Greer. The 3-inch deck gun is the most awesome landmark, although now facing sideways, and the depth charges still sit in their racks on the fantail. Local divers have pretty much pulled off the last of the portholes, but there is still plenty to enjoy.


HVOSLEF: Depth: 140 ft. Freighter torpedoed by U-94 March 10, 1942. Built: 1927. Length: 255 ft. The Hvoslef was carrying sugar from Spain to Boston when she was struck by 2 torpedoes. The ship sank in 2 minutes. The bow is the most intact part of the wreck. The midships is open, exposing the engine and boilers, and the stern breaks down into the sand. Portholes and other nautical treasures are still being found by diligent salvage hounds. Large lobster and tautog are among the inhabitants.


JACOB JONES
: Depth: 120 ft. Destroyer torpedoed by the U- 578 on February 28, 1942. Built: 1919. Length: 314 ft. The Jacob Jones is basically plastered all over the sea-bed. There are several sections, the largest being the mid-ship section consisting of boilers, engine and associated stern wreckage. The mid-ship torpedo tubes lie atop the mass of debris with the torpedoes still inside. Gun shells and calibration rings are commonly recovered from the site and the occasional personal article. Warheads are found as well, but best left alone. Large lobsters have come up recently from the Jones too.


TERROR WRECK (SOLVANG?): Depth: 175 ft. Length: 250-300 ft. The "Terror Wreck" was so named for the expression on one diver's face when he surfaced after the first exploratory dive on this deep and typically dark, poor visibility wreck. Ted Green theorizes that this may well be the freighter Solvang which sank in January 1926 in a collision with the tanker S.S. Vacuum. This wreck is clearly for the very experienced technical diver only.


NORTHERN PACIFIC: Depth: 150 ft. Passenger liner destroyed by fire February 8, 1922. Built: 1915. Length: 509 ft. The Northern Pacific's upside down hull is almost perfectly intact, although several broad breaks allow access to the interior including the engine room. The port side is ripped outward exposing portholes, many of which lie loose in the sand. Large lobsters are found in the debris field that extends out into the sand.


DRY DOCKS: Five different large sets of dry-docks from Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore were scuttled at different locations and depths to the sand of 130-140 ft. The top of the docks can usually be reached at 100-110 ft. They are home to large pelagic schools, huge starfish, anemones, mussels, scallops and lobsters. They are located in the general vicinity of the Moonstone and other deep wrecks out of Indian River, Delaware.


POSEIDON: Depth: 100 ft. Freighter which sank in a collision with the SS Somerset July 31, 1918. Built: 1914. Length: 295 ft. Also known as the "Little Oiler". The most interesting thing to note is that this wreck seems to be bisected down the middle like a "half-hull" ship model. The wreck has good relief with the highest section being the boilers at about 15 feet. The fantail, rudder and two blades of the prop are exposed. It is an interesting dive for both artifact hounds and hunter-gatherers.


CITY OF ATHENS: Depth: 110 ft. Passenger-freighter which sank in a collision with the French cruiser La Gloire in the wee hours of the morning on May 1, 1918 with 67 lives lost. Built: 1911. Length: 309 ft. Also known as the "Ammo Wreck" because of the vast quantities of 8 mm LaBelle cartridges recovered regularly by divers. These were part of the cargo. This is a fantastic digging wreck with not only thousands of bullets recovered, mostly from cases broken up on the port side near the bow, but also large quantities of pharmaceutical bottles, some still with contents and corks intact. The nicest piece we've seen come up was a sterling silver gentleman's pocket watch. Just forward of the engines is the place to dig for assorted glassware and china. Large lobsters and fish also abound on the wreck if you're not a salvage hound.


CLEOPATRA: Depth: 100 ft. Passenger-freighter carrying a cargo of cotton which sank in a collision with the Crystal Wave on October 29, 1889. Built: 1865. Length: 184 ft. Generally dived in conjunction with the City of Athens on the way back to the dock. The Crystal Wave has been identified as well, but is too small and broken up to entertain a charter unless with a very small group.

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