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long island sound mystery solved by wire drag party

B. H. Rigg, U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey

(From the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey


No. 3, June 1931, p. 50.)

In the early part of July, 1930, while dragging in the middle of Long Island Sound, the drag, set at an effective depth of 42 feet, hung in a charted depth of 53 feet of water. The tender sounding on the obstruction obtained a depth of 38 feet, with indications of shoaler depth.
diagram showing wiredrag
Wiredrag diagram. The basic principle is to drag a wire attached to
two vessels If the wire encounters an obstruction it will
come taut and form a "V".

Several attempts to clear the drag failed and it was decided to take it in. Solidly hooked, it looked for a time as if we would have to part it. Suddenly something let go and the wire came sliding in bringing a vessel's mast to the surface. The freshness of the paint and the condition of a running light attached to the mast gave evidence that it had been in the water but a short time.

The spot was marked "unfinished" on the field sheet and a location of the obstruction with the note "probably a wreck" was sent to the Washington office.

A short time after this as the party was preparing to leave the dock, a little old man came bustling down to the dock and asked for the captain of the launch. He introduced himself as Captain Timmons and said his business was salvaging sunken ships. We later found that Timmons was 71 years old and was the oldest salvage man on the Sound. He brought with him a copy of a marine magazine with a copy of the notice that had been sent to the office reporting the obstruction.

The location was pointed out on the chart and the mast was shown him. With a piece of the wreckage and our story as a guide, he returned to Brooklyn to try to identify the boat. As a clue, he knew the approximate height of the vessel, obtained from the difference between the charted depth in the locality and the sounding obtained on the top of the wreck, namely, 53-38.

We soon heard from Timmons again; this time he greeted us with the smiling statement that he was sure the obstruction we had located was a missing oil barge. As if in answer to this, the body of a man, identified as the captain of a missing oil barge, was found a week later about six miles from the spot where we had pulled up the mast.

Timmons organized a company and a diver went down on the wreck. He reported it to be resting upright in the mud and in perfect condition; also that it was the boat Timmons thought it was. The boat known as Reliable Fuel Oil Supply Barge No. 3 had sailed about dusk from Brooklyn on January 30, 1930, bound for Bridgeport, Connecticut, with a cargo of oil. No one could be found that had seen or heard of her after that night. At the time of her disappearance, the crew consisted of an engineer and a captain. The engineer was never found. After the disappearance of Barge No. 3, two women appeared at the insurance office and claimed the insurance of the missing captain, both offering proof that they were married to him. As neither of the men could be proven dead, the matter could not be settled until the boat was found.

After three days' work with divers and a floating crane, the craft was raised and towed into Brooklyn. The water was pumped out and 300 pounds of live fish were found in the hold.

(This article is accompanied by a plate entitled "WIRE DRAG SURVEYS, LONG ISLAND SOUND" and showing seven photographs, captioned as follows:

Wire-drag launches Marindin and Ogden
Drag Tender
Aftermast of Salvaged Tanker
Types of Intermediate Buoys
End Buoy
Setting Out the Drag
Salvaged Tanker Found in 52 Feet of Water)

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