Posted by: mcjangles | July 12, 2007

Moonstone 7/11 on the Independence II

The USS St Augustine and the USS Moonstone share an eerily similar history. Both were former luxury yachts, both built in 1929, and both later purchased and commissioned into the US Navy to help patrol the Eastern Sea Frontier in WWII. The similarities don’t stop with their fruitful careers (the Auggie was instrumental in an attack on the U-701), but also in their demise. Both ships sunk serving as convoy escorts off the coast of Cape May/DE. The St. Augustine was run down by the tanker Camas Meadows (who was not in the convoy she was escorting), while the Moonstone was dealt her death blow by the USS Greer in a dense fog.

This week we were originally scheduled to do an overnight expedition to the St. Augustine which lies in 250fsw approximately 60 miles from Cape May. The weather was looking less than promising from the beginning of the week and I was expecting a total blow out. Capt Dan thought Wednesday would still be good and we would try for a 1 and run on the St Augustine instead of the original overnight plan. This was ok by me, as I have been dying to get to this wreck and one dive is better than none any day. Wednesday morning rolled around and with it the FOG. So although the wind and seas cooperated the visibility was non existent. Instead of taking 6 hours in questionable coniditons to get to the Auggie we opted to do something closer and headed to the Moonstone in 130fsw. The fog was still pretty thick close to shore and it was slow going but once further from shore it became patchier and lifted in spots making the journey a little quicker.

On site Dave O tied into the top of the port side depth charge rack in the stern. Visibility on the bottom was 30-40 feet and coming down on the stern facing forward the navigation was a snap. I passed Dave and Mark who were inspecting a piece of the stern and headed forward to check out the wreck. The Moonstone was only 171’x26’ which is small enough to see the whole wreck, but large enough that there are plenty of features and nooks to explore… in a summary a perfect wreck. Rounding the bow and coming to the impressive forward 3” deck gun I began to wish I had packed my camera as this is quite a picturesque wreck. I took my time poking around and by the time I got back to the stern I wished I had more time. I took a last look at the full depth charge rack (they held 8 depth charges) and noticed at least one depth charge lying in the sand off the wreck before heading up. A great dive on a great wreck!

Suggested reading: Shipwrecks of DE/MD

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