After diving the KESHENA last week in North Carolina I read in Gary Gentile’s Wrecks of North Carolina South book on the boat ride in that the wreck had been first positively identified by New Jersey’s own Gene Peterson who recovered the letters off the bow. I contacted Gene when I got back to try and find out more about this piece of wreck diving history and he was awesome enough to share the story of the recovery and a picture of the brass letters which now reside in the Atlantic Divers shop. Here’s the story from Gene, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
From Gene Peterson:
“I can’t recall the year… it was a couple dozen years ago. So many wrecks we dived with fishing boats and then Truman Seaman, Roger Huffman, Eddie Jack and Arty Kirshner. I know it was speculated that the little tug was the Keshena when we dived it. It wasn’t one of our choice destination, but I thought it was a real pretty dive. I guess because it was shallow the group figured it was picked over. All the divers came up wanting to go to another sight, saying there wasn’t much to see. I was mating for Roger and I remember being exhausted from all the weeks tie ins, so I sat out. Arty didn’t want to pull the hook so I made a quick bounce swim to the wreck, did a little tour and then went to pull the grapnel snagged in the bow. I did a double take of the chain which was rubbing the growth off the side of the bow. There attached in place were all the letters. I pulled out my knife and popped the loose brass KEHENA letters from port side and then swam to the other side and popped off the other letters which also spelled KEHENA. The S was missing on both sides. Some of the letters were made of lead and quite possibly the S may have been made of steel or just fell to the sand. I did look but I never found either. That dive lasted only about 10 minutes including recovering the letters and pulling the hook. Back on the boat six divers were waiting anticipating a one of my dull anchor pulling stories when I dumped my goody bag on the deck with 12 assorted brass letters. I kept one side of the letters and gave each of the group one letter. They were quite happy and wanted to return anticipating more discoveries. We did find a couple port holes but the wreck was so sanded in there wasn’t really much more. I told Gary about the letters and we both speculated that the S must have been steel and corroded away, fallen to the sand or is still there or the name was put on the bow by an illiterate yard worker on a Friday. A few months later a lucky female diver recovered a large brass bell. It did have the name on it and it was spelled KESHENA. She positively identified the wreck’s correct spelling. “