Posted by: mcjangles | July 17, 2011

Action packed weekend off New Jersey

Sean Martini splashes on the USS MURPHY (DD-603)

Capt Dan sent tuna fisherman on a re-con mission Thurs/Fri to confirm if there was indeed a wreck at some recently acquired numbers (converted from LORAN) that a commercial fisherman had recalled hanging his gear on in the 80s.  He recalled a large wreck some 400 feet long and with relief of at least 40 feet.  To say we were excited to check this out could be the understatement of the year.  With a good weather window for Saturday we weren’t sure if we would get the word in time whether the numbers were good, and did not really want to venture 75 miles offshore on a wild goose chase.  Oh yeah, did I mention this wreck is 75 miles offshore NJ in 260 fsw?

Anyway we finally got word that they did indeed find it after a slight search during which they trolled and hooked a marlin!  It was indeed pretty big, and we eagerly left the dock on the Independence II at 0300 for the long journey East.  Once on site we marked a huge target and Danny and I splashed with explicit instructions to only tie in if it was a wreck… barges and clam boats need not apply on this trip.  Dropping down we left the comfort of the clear blue (and warm) Gulf Stream water at 60 feet and descended down into the chilly darkness not knowing what was waiting on the other end of the line.  As if the long descent didn’t give us enough time to build anticipation we arrived at 200 feet to find the line horizontal and had a couple minute swim until the first signs of wreckage appeared in the clear 50 foot of (dark) visibility.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw a large cross beam structure rising some 20 feet off the main deck and immediately thought… BRIDGE!  However it was not to be, and the darkness was playing tricks on us and it turned out to be some wooden structure on a huge barge.   The barge probably had a beam of close to 100 feet and was littered with massive concrete “tubes”, that were big enough to drive a truck through.  It also looked like Barnum and Bailey was in town with big tops of suspended gill nets forming the rest of the landscape.  Chain dogfish sharks scattered on the deck as we touched down to retrieve our ground tackle which hung precariously on the lip of a hole in the deck next to some nets. Danny sent that on its way, and he headed out of dodge after clearing the chain (and ourselves) of the mess of nets, rope, and mono, which seemed to be all around us.

Marking the MURPHY

All was not lost and we headed to our back up plan, the USS MURPHY (260 fsw), for a dive.  This wreck, which is actually only the bow section of the destroyer DD-603 USS MURPHY has a very interesting history, both as a ship, and in its role in North East wreck diving lore.  Again Danny and I went to tie in and had the good fortune of arriving on the wreck to find the grapple, shot, and chain, firmly embedded in a massive suspended net.  I do not use the word “massive” lightly here… this thing came up off the top of the wreck (230 fsw) at least 30 feet , covered the entire bridge area of the wreck, and portions of the break.  Sweet.

After sleeping like rocks Saturday night, Day 2 of the adventure began and we headed to the Mud Hole today to dive the AYURUOCA (Oil wreck) which sits in 175 fsw.  Sean and Sue finally did some work and got us tied in right quick to the main deck of the stern section.  Danny and I (finally) had a leisurely dive and swam from the break (the wreck is actually in two sections) to very stern to check out the 3″ deck gun.  Visibility was pretty good for the Mud Hole and about 20 feet on main deck level (140ish), but dropped below that.  Temperature was 48 degrees and I just tooled around snapping photos.  Everyone on board was only doing 1 dive and since it was early Capt Dan lets us know that he had ANOTHER new set of numbers not too far away in 210 fsw if we wanted to do a quick splash to take a look.  Silly question.

Danny on the AYURUOCA

Bill, Adam, and I, were ready to roll by the time we got on site and followed the shot into the water.  I was the first one down and nearly had deja-vu when I got to the top of the wreck (190 fsw) and found the shot continuing down through a web of monofiliment in a few feet of visibility.  I pulled out my Trilobite and made quick work of that just as the other guys arrived behind me.  I tied off my reel and ran out about 75 feet of line (did not reach the end of the wreckage) and we took a quick look around at what looked to definitely be an actual shipwreck!  We didn’t see much in our brief visit, but saw enough to know we want to go back 😉

All in all an incredible weekend at sea off New Jersey.  Our “hot” numbers didn’t pan out to be something exciting, but I think it’s fair to say we had a hell of a lot of fun exploring and finding that out!

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