The General Slocum

by Ellsworth Boyd

                   
         

Renowned author and explorer Clive Cussler has done it again. His National Underwater and Marine Agency team, led by marine surveyor Ralph Wilbanks, discovered the remains of the General Slocum, an excursion steamer that claimed 1,021 lives when it sank in New York's East River in 1904.

The stately paddle-wheeler caught fire when a cookstove exploded during a 30-minute cruise from New York's Lower East Side to North Brother Island. Hundreds of passengers, most of them families on a picnic outing sponsored by St. Mark's German Lutheran Church, leapt overboard as the captain steered toward the island.

Scores of men, women and children were drowned or crushed by the steamer's churning paddle-wheels in one of America's worst marine disasters. Only 300 people escaped as the 264-foot-long vessel sank off Hunt's Point on the East River.

Merritt, Chapman and Scott Wrecking Company salvaged the burned out hull and towed it to a shipyard where it was converted to a coal barge. The barge, christened the Maryland, was lost in a squall eight years later off Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Cussler says the ship is buried beneath four feet of silt and was identified by recording its dimensions and discovering a cargo of coal and Coca-Cola.

Details of the mishap are recorded in Lost Voyages: Two Centuries of Shipwrecks in the Approaches to New York by Brad Sheard.

Bill Hughes of State College, Pennsylvania, writes that he and his dive buddies will resume their search for the U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Bedlow, sunk off North Carolina's Outer Banks during a hurricane in 1944.

Although they have found two old fishing trawlers, the Bedlow remains elusive. Hughes conducted extensive research over the winter, hoping it will help in the discovery of the lost cutter this summer.

Pete Nawrocky, via the Internet, replies to a reader's question about pig boats on the Great Lakes.

Pete says Dwight Boyer's book, Great Stories of the Great Lakes (Dodd, Mead and Company, NY, 1966), refers to pig boats as those designed by shipbuilder Alexander McDougall. The decks were sloped, allowing water to wash over them in all kinds of seas. When the bow of the ship plowed into the sea in bad weather, deckhands had to keep tightening the tarps on the hatches. As they worked the bindings, sloshing through a constant flow of water, crews called McDougall-designed vessels pig boats.

Jim Clark of Glendale, California, would like to identify a shipwreck in Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz, one of Santa Barbara's Channel Islands.

From Jim's description, it sounds like the Peacock, a 140-foot-long, World War II minesweeper that sank in 1979. Decommissioned in 1955, she was converted into a freighter/passenger ship that sailed around the Caribbean as well as California. Divers descend 50 to 70 feet to visit its remains, which are covered with barnacles, anemones and tunicates, attracting Sheepshead, Calico Bass and baitfish.

Lt. Dave Snell, USN, of Augusta, Georgia, is interested in tracing the SS Quaker City, a ship on which his great uncle died when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Caribbean in 1942.
The Quaker City is listed as a U-boat victim in Axis Submarine Successes, 1939-1945 by Jurgen Rowher. Captain Hartenstein commanded the U-156 on May 18, 1942, when his torpedoes tore into the Quaker City. The location of the disaster, near the island of Barbados, is listed as: 14.55N/51.40W.

Send your wreck questions to Ellsworth Boyd, 1120 Bernoudy Rd., White Hall, MD 21161. Include a stamped, self-
addressed envelope for a personal reply. Ellsworth can also be e-mailed at: aced@gateway.net.

         

Renowned author and explorer Clive Cussler has done it again. His National Underwater and Marine Agency team, led by marine surveyor Ralph Wilbanks, discovered the remains of the General Slocum, an excursion steamer that claimed 1,021 lives when it sank in New York's East River in 1904.

The stately paddle-wheeler caught fire when a cookstove exploded during a 30-minute cruise from New York's Lower East Side to North Brother Island. Hundreds of passengers, most of them families on a picnic outing sponsored by St. Mark's German Lutheran Church, leapt overboard as the captain steered toward the island.

Scores of men, women and children were drowned or crushed by the steamer's churning paddle-wheels in one of America's worst marine disasters. Only 300 people escaped as the 264-foot-long vessel sank off Hunt's Point on the East River.

Merritt, Chapman and Scott Wrecking Company salvaged the burned out hull and towed it to a shipyard where it was converted to a coal barge. The barge, christened the Maryland, was lost in a squall eight years later off Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Cussler says the ship is buried beneath four feet of silt and was identified by recording its dimensions and discovering a cargo of coal and Coca-Cola.

Details of the mishap are recorded in Lost Voyages: Two Centuries of Shipwrecks in the Approaches to New York by Brad Sheard.

Bill Hughes of State College, Pennsylvania, writes that he and his dive buddies will resume their search for the U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Bedlow, sunk off North Carolina's Outer Banks during a hurricane in 1944.

Although they have found two old fishing trawlers, the Bedlow remains elusive. Hughes conducted extensive research over the winter, hoping it will help in the discovery of the lost cutter this summer.

Pete Nawrocky, via the Internet, replies to a reader's question about pig boats on the Great Lakes.

Pete says Dwight Boyer's book, Great Stories of the Great Lakes (Dodd, Mead and Company, NY, 1966), refers to pig boats as those designed by shipbuilder Alexander McDougall. The decks were sloped, allowing water to wash over them in all kinds of seas. When the bow of the ship plowed into the sea in bad weather, deckhands had to keep tightening the tarps on the hatches. As they worked the bindings, sloshing through a constant flow of water, crews called McDougall-designed vessels pig boats.

Jim Clark of Glendale, California, would like to identify a shipwreck in Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz, one of Santa Barbara's Channel Islands.

From Jim's description, it sounds like the Peacock, a 140-foot-long, World War II minesweeper that sank in 1979. Decommissioned in 1955, she was converted into a freighter/passenger ship that sailed around the Caribbean as well as California. Divers descend 50 to 70 feet to visit its remains, which are covered with barnacles, anemones and tunicates, attracting Sheepshead, Calico Bass and baitfish.

Lt. Dave Snell, USN, of Augusta, Georgia, is interested in tracing the SS Quaker City, a ship on which his great uncle died when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Caribbean in 1942.
The Quaker City is listed as a U-boat victim in Axis Submarine Successes, 1939-1945 by Jurgen Rowher. Captain Hartenstein commanded the U-156 on May 18, 1942, when his torpedoes tore into the Quaker City. The location of the disaster, near the island of Barbados, is listed as: 14.55N/51.40W.

Send your wreck questions to Ellsworth Boyd, 1120 Bernoudy Rd., White Hall, MD 21161. Include a stamped, self-
addressed envelope for a personal reply. Ellsworth can also be e-mailed at: aced@gateway.net.