Pre-Civil War steamship wreck identified

2013-08-28 10:45
An undersea diver lights the paddlewheel from the ship, USCS Robert J Walker, which sank on 21 June 1860, 16km off the New Jersey coast. (NOAA, AP)

An undersea diver lights the paddlewheel from the ship, USCS Robert J Walker, which sank on 21 June 1860, 16km off the New Jersey coast. (NOAA, AP)

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Washington - The wreck of the US steamship Robert J Walker, which sank in a collision with a schooner more than 153 years ago, has been identified off the coast of New Jersey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Tuesday.

The Walker, built in 1847 as one of the first US government iron-hulled, side-wheel steamers, sank in rough seas on 21 June 1860, after being hit by a commercial schooner.

The 40m vessel sank within 30 minutes, taking 20 sailors down with it of a total crew of 66.

"Many of the men were doubtless washed off the spars and drowned from the mere exhaustion of holding on, while others were killed or stunned on rising to the surface by concussion with spars and other parts of the wreck," the New York Herald wrote in 1860, reporting the Walker's loss.

Resting 26m underwater near Atlantic City, the wreck was discovered in the 1970s by a commercial fisherman and has become a popular destination for divers, but its identity was not confirmed until 23 June of this year.

The Walker was a survey ship and was returning to New York from a mission to chart the Gulf Coast in the year before the Civil War. The work was part of the US Coast Survey, a precursor to NOAA's Office of Coast Survey.

"In 1860, as the Civil War approached, the Coast Survey redoubled efforts to produce surveys of harbours and strategically important to the war effort along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts," NOAA said.

Read more on:    archaeology

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