I’ve been asked by many people to separate the fact from fiction in my novella Dusk and Summer. While I cannot reveal all my tricks to its telling, I will say that, as a tribute to my father, I took many elements of his life and seamlessly incorporated them into the story. I will offer you one point of truth – my father was in fact an avid scuba diver and enjoyed diving the many shipwrecks that litter New Jersey‘s coastline. New Jersey possesses a fascinating history of shipwrecks, so this naturally factored in as one of the driving forces behind the plot of Dusk and Summer. With that in mind, here is a list of my personal top-ten most interesting New Jersey shipwrecks.
10. The Brian C
The Brian C, built in 1928 and originally named the Jon Cushman, was an 80 foot long tugboat that met her end in a storm on November 13, 1979, 40 miles off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. A valiant effort was made by The Coast Guard to save the tug, but in the end, was unsuccessful. They did however manage to dramatically rescue both the crew and her captain by helicopter before the Brian C sank.
9. The Persephone
On May 25, 1942, while en route from Aruba to New York, the Persephone was struck by torpedoes from the Nazi U-boat U-593. She sank, killing nine of her 37 crew members. The wreckage of her stern now rests in 55 feet of water off the coast of Barnegat Inlet, New Jersey.
8. The Gulftrade
Built in 1920 by Sun Ship Building Company of Chester, Pennsylvania, the Gulftrade met her watery doom by a torpedo from the Nazi U-boat U-588. Forced to sail with its lights on to avoid other vessels in the area, the tanker made an easy target; the torpedo that struck it actually broke the tanker in two. Presently, her bow rests eight miles from Barnegat Inlet, New Jersey; her stern nearly 13 miles away.
7. The Pliny
The Pliny was a British cargo ship built by Barrow Ship Builders of England in 1878. On April 22, 1882, the Pliny left Rio De Janeiro with a crew of 34, 21 passengers, 20,000 bags of coffee and 300 bales of hides. On May 13, during a fierce storm, she ran aground. Fortunately for those aboard, all passengers and crew members were saved. The Pliny now rests in about ten to 25 feet of water, approximately 200 yards out off the coast of Deal, New Jersey. A note of interest – a passenger had nearly $3,000 in gold coins locked in the captain’s safe. It is still assumed that the safe was never recovered.
6. The R.P. Resor
In 1935, the Federal Ship Building Company of Kearny, New Jersey built the R.P. Resor. On February 27, 1942, while travelling from Houston, Texas to Fall River, Massachusetts, the Nazi U-boat U-578 torpedoed the R.P. Resor. Out of a crew of nearly 50, only two men survived. She stayed afloat for two days while crowds watched her flames along the horizon from the shore of Asbury Park, New Jersey.
5. The Delaware
The Delaware was built in 1880 by Birely, Hill and Streaker, in Philadelphia. On July 9, 1898, a fire was reported in her hull. While being taken in tow by tugboats, she sunk beneath the waves. All 38 crew and 35 passengers were saved. Today, the Delaware rests in 65 to 70 feet of water nearly 2 miles off the coast of Bay Head, New Jersey. She was rumored to be carrying $250,000 in gold bullion when she met her fate.
4. The Robert J. Walker
The Robert J. Walker, built by Joseph Tomlinson at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1844, once served a vital role as a survey vessel. Twenty sailors died when the Robert J. Walker collided with a commercial schooner ten miles off Absecon Inlet, New Jersey, in June of 1860. She sank within thirty minutes, and was the largest single loss of life in the history of the Coast Survey and its successor agency, NOAA. In 2013, a NOAA Maritime Heritage diving team successfully identified the wreck during a Hurricane Sandy related mission in the area.
3. The U-869 Nazi U-boat
In 1991, a group of divers discovered an unknown object 230 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, only 60 to 65 miles east of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, a popular tourist destination. Three divers, including a father and son, died attempting to learn its identity. This ghost did not give up her secrets easily – eventually, it was learned she was indeed the Nazi U-boat U-869, thought to have been sunk off the coast of Gibraltar between January and February of 1945. It is still debated today as to what sunk this U-boat: a victim of its own torpedo (known as a ‘circle-runner’), or by depth charges from two US Naval destroyers.
2. SS Morro Castle
It seems a simple yet tragic tale; the SS Morro Castle, a luxury ocean liner, caught fire and burned on September 8, 1934, killing 137 passengers and crewmembers. Her final voyage began on September 5, 1934 in Havana. On September 7, the Morro Castle began to sail through the beginnings of a nor’easter. Later that evening, Captain Robert Willmott complained of stomach trouble and subsequently died of an apparent heart attack. Then, around 2:50 a.m. on September 8, a fire broke out and within thirty minutes, consumed the ship in flames. By mid morning, the burning vessel drifted ashore, finally running aground in Asbury Park, New Jersey, narrowly missing a collision with Convention Hall along the boardwalk pier. Bodies of the victims washed ashore along the neighboring towns of Manasquan and Point Pleasant. The Morro Castle sat sadly for six months; it was so close to the shore that sightseers were able to wade out and touch its burnt-out hull. To this day, the circumstances leading to the fate of the Morro Castle remain an enigma.
1. The Tolten
Number one on my list of New Jersey shipwrecks is the Tolten. Built in 1938, the Danish steamer was formerly named the S.S. Lotta, but was taken over by the Chilean government and renamed. On March 13, 1942, the Tolten was travelling to New York but was struck by a pair of German torpedoes fired from the Nazi U-boat U-404. From a crew of 28, only the ship’s electrician, Julio Faust, survived. Presently, the Tolten’s remains are found in 90 feet of water, 16 miles from Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey.
Why does the Tolten headline my top-ten list? It is a wreck that my father actually dove and explored; the very wreck that gives up its secrets only to the Chosen in my novella Dusk and Summer.
Are you one of the Chosen as well?
Dusk and Summer
Does Heaven await beneath the waves? One man needs to know.
When his dying father whispers a cryptic message to him, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime. It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny; it’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son. It’s a journey of the heart that unfolds where only the Chosen exist – in the moments between Dusk and Summer.
“A poignant, metaphoric conversation between son and father. A story that will warm your heart.”
–Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., bestselling author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters
The author will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
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