“Many wrecks lie waiting to be found, many found wrecks wait to be identified. Only researchers continuing to delve into museums, libraries, and archives can hope to unravel the sinuous threads of history. The rout is long, but there is adventure along the way and satisfaction in discovery. The rewards are intrinsic.” Gary Gentile, Shipwrecks of Delaware and Maryland
A Possible Location
Although he takes somewhat of a dim view of archaeologists and historic preservationists, Gary Gentile has written several exhaustive shipwreck guides to the east coast of the United States. To make his arduous task easier, he broke up these guides by region. In my continuing research into the missing lightship LV-95 (see the previous blog) I decided to strike out in my research methodology I’ve been conducting and picked up Gary Gentile’s Shipwrecks of Delaware and Maryland. For the simple reason that if LV-95 had indeed been sunk it would have been In the waters from Southern New Jersey and Maryland. In these books, he provides the stories and history about the more notable shipwrecks but in the back of the book, he provides a listing of wrecks based on Loran locations.
“The Lightship Wreck”
In this listing at the back of the book Gary lists the “Lightship Wreck” at 26994.7, 42056.3 There is no further information about the wreck itself aside from it being the Lightship Wreck” and it’s apparent location. Lightship shipwrecks are fairly well known and attesting and few have been surveyed archaeologically. Being a federally owned vessel, by either the US Lighthouse Service and later the US Coast Guard those that sunk while on duty were reported and as an active aid to navigation, were formally marked on charts and known to mariners like lighthouses on land. If a lightship happened to sink on station, X literally marks the spot. I’m planning on writing about sunk lightships in a future blog post.
With this information in mind, I immediately set to emailing the various dive clubs and dive charters in the area inquiring if anyone has dove this lightship wreck and had any information about it. One dive charter company stated that they dive the wreck all the time but didn’t have any information about it aside from the wreck is one of an old lightship. There is an unknown lightship wreck to the south from Ocean City, Maryland. I believe this wreck is a possible candidate for the lightship LV-95. For three reasons: Its apparently a sunken lightship with so far no history, and no reason for it to be sunk in the location it is far from any former lightship stations but in a location that would be logical if the vessel had sunk while being transported either to or from the Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Maryland from Cape May, New Jersey. LV-95’s final disposition is unknown and here is sunken lightship whose history is unknown. Lastly, LV-95 was lost after the Coast Guard had donated the wreck, so the vessel was out of their ownership, they would not have been concerned with or had any record of a former lightship sinking and would not have recorded the incident unless there was a loss of life.
The Problem with LORAN
The problem with giving locations in LORAN is LORAN is not a form of navigation that’s used anymore when there is GPS, though there is currently discussion within military circles to bring back LORAN as a redundant form of navigation. LORAN stands for “Long Range Navigation.” and was developed in World War Two. What LORAN was a series of radio transmitters set up on shore that broadcasted radio signals that ships at sea would receive and based on the timing of these radio beacons ships could discern their location from them. They have long ago been phased out with the Coast Guard decommissioning the last LORAN station in 2010. The problem being is that this book was published in 1990 back when LORAN was still the primary form of ocean navigation. These coordinates are somewhat mute when the system that produced these coordinates does not exist anymore. When we visually survey in archaeology, typically we find an arbitrary visual datum to sight into with compasses in order to create maps of what we are surveying. We usually are instructed to choose something permanent and prominent as a datum so the next batch of archaeologists who visit the site can recreate the site and where possible artifacts are scattered. Barns can be torn down, trees can be cut down, and silos can collapse thus ruining the map because the arbitrary datum has been lost. Precisely the same occurred in this case because LORAN has been shut down for nearly a decade, these coordinates are no longer good. However, fortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintain an online calculator for transferring LORAN coordinates to latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. Additionally, in my researches, I have found a website https://fishocmd.com which maintains a comprehensive map listing of sites to fish off of Ocean City and because shipwrecks naturally attract fish, shipwrecks are listed including the “Lightship Wreck” and gives the following coordinates 37° 55′ 28′ N 74° 55′ 28′ W .
I’m going to continue my archival research into LV-95. My hypothesis is that this “Lightship Wreck” is the missing LV-95 but there’s currently no way to know for certain because there’s no information about this wreck. That information only comes from a visit to the wreck and depending on the depth and the conditions of the site (If I can dive with the current PADI certification that I have). I do plan on diving the wreck, so stay tuned dear reader. LV-95 is unique out of American built lightships, it is the only lightship that looks the way it does. What’s diagnostic to LV-95 is the “double stacked” pilothouse that the vessel gained during its refit. If this wreck has the same unique pilothouse then it would be fair to conclude that the “Lightship Wreck” is in fact LV-95. If anyone reading this has dove this wreck before please reach me via email or on the JaySea Archaeology Facebook page.
Sources & Resources
Fish Ocean City. https://fishocmd.com
Gentile, Gary. Shipwrecks of Delaware and Maryland
Loran History. http://www.loran-history.info/default.htm
Loran-C General Information. https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=loranMain
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum & The US Coast Guard. How Loran Works https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDtHulWGMGg
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. LORAN Calculator.