Lehigh & Wilkes Barre Coal Company #1 (aka the
This one definitely has a question mark after the
name, as we'll probably never know for sure the identity. But the
measurements and general characteristics seem to point to this wreck, known
to have gone down in the vicinity. If it's the L&WBC #1, it was built at
the Robert Palmer Shipbuilding & Marine Railway Co. in Noank, CT (now the location of the Noank Shipyard), in 1892 for the Delaware /Lackewana and Western Coal Company in
N.J. It was also owned for a time by the Central Railroad of N.J.
The photo above is of one of the many schooner barges built at that site and
is likely a very similar design.
At the time of its construction, schooners were giving
way to steam, and the shipyards that had previously built the fully rigged
ships were reduced to building hulls only for use as barges for transporting
coal and other goods. The hulls were of the schooner design, but
lacked any ornate hardware or the extensive rigging required for sail. When researching this wreck, I found at least 15 barges
listed as "L&WBC", all with similar measurements of approximately 200 ft. in
length and with a 32 ft. beam.
We were the first to dive this wreck in June, 2004.
Ray Bates had originally marked the location but never checked it out, and
his loran coordinates were never converted properly to GPS numbers.
Local fishermen obviously knew where it was, as it is usually covered with
gill nets during the season. The wreck had a very large profile on the
depth finder, which led us to think great things. When Dave Caldwell
and I went down the line to investigate, we found three very large dragger
nets suspended off the bottom like parachutes. They are actually
beautiful, covered in anemones. It actually took us some time to
determine that the nets were really caught on a wreck - they completely
obscure the stern. There are plenty of other nets caught in this wreck along
its length making it a cautious dive.
The wreck is sitting upright on the bottom in about 175
FSW, but has collapsed to a large extent and has only about a 4-5 foot profile
for the most part. The decks seem to have a lot of iron junk strewn
about, and in some places the decking has collapsed to reveal openings into
the lower decks of the wreck (too small to enter). Bits of ceramic tile have also been found on
the wreck. The bow still retains the schooner look although it's somewhat broken
up, and the measurements are very close to those of the L&WBC line of
barges, so I'll call it that - but...