The Shipwreck |    Dive Site Conditions
Historical Background   |    Salvage (if any)    |    Sources


Chelsea

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Vineyard Sound
Lightship

Description: Coastal Tanker; Steel
Dimensions:   length - 169.7 ft.    width - 30.1 ft.   depth - 12.4 ft.
     Tonnage:     gross - 556,              other - Dead Weight - 402
  Propulsion: Motor Vessel, single propeller
  Machinery: (1930) Fairbanks, Morse & Co., 5 cylinder Oil Engine, 14" cylinder diameters, 17" stroke, 400 Brake Horse Power
        Cargo: 6000 barrels of number 2 fuel oil


The Shipwreck

   Date Sunk: February 10, 1957
          Cause: Foundered
      Location: Cape Ann, off Loblolly Cove, mile northeast of Thatcher
                       Island.

 Coordinates:  Latitude, 42o - 38' - 52"N    Longitude,70o - 34' - 11"W
          Loran:

   At 8:30 Sunday morning, after loading fuel oil for delivery to Newington, New Hampshire, the coastal tanker Chelsea left Boston. Visibility was good, but a 35-mph northwesterly wind was whipping up seas off shore. Captain Keith Beale hoped to avoid the rough water by hugging the shorline, taking advantage of the protection it offered. Around 11:30 Beale turned command over to his Chief Mate, and went below. About 1 hour later Chelsea ground to a halt. The Chief had attempted a shortcut, popular with the Gloucester fishermen, between Straitsmouth Island and the Dry Salvages. He cut in to close to the submerged section of the Sandy Bay Breakwater, on the outgoing tide, and the tanker came to ground. The force of the impact opened a gash in her bow.
    Chelsea was hard aground and the crew's attempts to free her were in vain. At last a Coast Guard 36-foot motor lifeboat came to remove all but skipper Beale.
   The Coast Guard already had their hands full when Chelsea happened onto the breakwater. Late Saturday evening, the tanker Franco Lisi grounded on Little Misery Island off Boston. Although the vessel freed itself shortly after noon, Sunday, no cutter was available to render immediate assistance to the Chelsea.     About 6 hours after running aground, the Coast Guard cutter Evergreen was standing by the helpless tanker. Pounding seas had opened the gash in her bow to near amidship, a length of 80 feet. In the hours before Evergreen arrived it was decided to attempt to patch the hole while the ship was still aground. Her crew was returned but before work could commence and just as the Coast Guard motor lifeboat was attempting to ferry a towline to the Evergreen, the rising tide floated Chelsea off the breakwater.
   Water was now pouring into the tanker through the gash in her hull. Immediately, the motor lifeboat removed two of Chelsea's crew as strong winds pushed the tanker in a Southerly direction. When roughly off Loblolly Cove, Chelsea began to settle fast. With little time for rescue remaining, the Coast Guard lifeboat edged in close to the tanker. Captain Beale and the remaining crew jumped for their lives, Chelsea, literally, sinking from beneath their feet. A crewman on the lifeboat quickly took an axe to the towline, to prevent his own vessel from being dragged under.
   Chelsea settled into 60 feet of water.

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Dive Site Conditions

    Depth in feet:    maximum - 60;    minimum - 45
Visibility in feet:      average -

   Chelsea settled with her bow on a ledge and her stern buried in the mud with no support amidship. This position broke the ship in two. The bow came to rest alongside, the ledge wall it was once atop, protecting the bow from storm damage. The bow gunnels are level with the top of the ledge. Over the years tidal action separated the two pieces. The stern is scattered and broken up on the bottom. The bow, until recently was known as a "Hollywood" wreck. It looked like a ship and was very photogenic, not a broken and twisted pile of scrap characterized by so many of New England's shipwrecks.
   It's best to dive the wreck at slack water because of strong tidal currents.


Click on the image to go to the MapTech Map Server,
for additional navigation information.
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Historical Background

Constructed:    year - 1919; where - Bath, Maine.
                      builder - Texas S.S. Company.
Construction details: Machinary placed aft; 1 Deck plus a 39 ft. Poop Deck; 8 Bulkheads.
Crew: 5 ;        Master: Keith Beale
Owners: Peerless #1 Corporation, New Jersey
Home or Hailing Port: Boston, Massachusetts
Former Name(s) and date(s): Texaco #145 (1919)
Official number: 218001      Country: U.S.A..
Other Comments: Hull #27 of the Texas S.S. Co.
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Salvage

    The Coast Guard was more worried about Chelsea as a menace to navigation than the potential for an oil spill. Her cargo was a light fuel oil and would be dispersed by wind and wave action.
   Before salvage operations could commence, the tanker's precarious position atop the ledge, broke her in two. The cargo quickly spilled but was carried offshore by prevailing winds.
   After the tanker's mast and radar antennae were removed, it was no longer considered a hazard to navigation.

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Sources:
MapTech Mapserver
Merchant Vessels of the United States; 1957
Merchant Vessels of the United States, Vessels Lost Chapter; 1958
New England's Legacy of Shipwrecks; Keatts, 1988
New England Shipwrecks; Luther, 1967
The Fisherman magazine; October 13, 1988
The Record, "American Lloyds", American Bureau of Shipping; 1957
Underwater USA; Cathie Cush, May 1989

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   These files are under construction. Any information, specifically dive site related, would be greatfully appreciated.  

Send comments to: Chris Hugo

Copyright 2000 by Christopher C. Hugo
Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources
All Rights Reserved