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


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Vineyard Sound

Description: Passenger vessel; Steel
Dimensions:   length - 245 ft.    width - 38 ft.   depth - 15.8 ft.
     Tonnage:     gross - 1240        other -
Propulsion: Steam; Twin propellor
Machinery: Twin triple expansion steam engines, net 2100 indicated Horse Power; 4, coal fired boilers

The Shipwreck

  Date Sunk: September 9, 1936
         Cause: Collision
     Location: 1 mile North of Graves Lighthouse, Broad Sound, Massachusetts Bay
Coordinates:    Latitude, 42o - 23' - 43"N.   Longitude,70o - 51' - 46"W

    With 208 passengers, returning after a day picnicking along the shores of Cape Cod, Romance was en route from Provincetown for Boston. Although the weather had been foggy all afternoon, visibility was from 1 to 8 miles, allowing Captain Adelbert Wickens to pilot his steamer at her top speed of 15 knots.
    Shortly after the Boston Lightship hove into view, fog shut in and Captain Wickens began to worry about the position of the steamer New York, which he knew from experience, should be in the vicinity. She would undoubtedly be exiting Boston Harbor from the northern route that Wickens was now trying to enter.
    At 7:04PM the faint blare of New York's whistle was heard in the distance. Ordering all stop Wickens strained to hear from which direction the whistle had come. Judging the vessel to be off his port bow, Wickens ordered slow ahead. About 8 minutes after first hearing her whistle, New York emerged from the fog a scant 600 feet from Romance's port beam. With collision imminent Wickens ordered full speed ahead and swung the ship's wheel hard to starboard to increase the angle of impact.
    Aboard New York Captain Roland Litchfield ordered full astern and his vessel shuddered and strained as it shot across the last few yards separating the two ships.
    It was, however, too late. New York struck Romance just aft of the pilothouse plunging deep into the smaller steamer's side. Captain Litchfield held his ship in the breech preventing Romance from sinking immediately. Moments after the collision, New York's crew made fast a line to Romance and lowered ladders to the upper deck only 8 feet below. Seeing his ship was doomed Captain Wickens ordered abandon ship, women and children first and his crew went out amongst the passengers, calming their fears, assisting with lifebelts and leading them to the upper deck. Those that could not climb the ladders were lifted to the outstretched arms of New York's crew.
    In the finest traditions of the sea, Captain Wickens searched every place a passenger could be while Chief Engineer Joseph Martinez and Electrician Charles Roland manned their posts until the ship literally sank from beneath their feet.
    Fifteen minutes after the collision, her whistle still blowing it's futile cry, Romance settled by the bow and slid beneath the waters of Massachusetts Bay, the mast head light glowing eerily beneath the waves as the steamer plunged to her final resting place.
    Miraculously there were no fatalities, nor serious injuries. The Court of Inquiry into the loss of Romance found Captain Wickens partially to blame. At the time of the collision an inexperienced lookout was on duty who was unfamiliar with whistle signals and the points of the compass for giving directions. Wickens' license was suspended for 6 months and Romance soon passed from the memories of Bostonians as the world was slowly drawn into the rising tide of another world war.

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Dive Site Conditions

    Depth in feet:   maximum - 80   minimum - 54.
Visibility in feet:     average -

    The remains of Romance lie scattered and broken on a bottom of sand and gravel. Amidships one of the steamer's boilers rises to within 54 feet of the surface. Although separated from the rest of the wreckage, the forward most fifteen feet of Romance's bow is intact. Perhaps broken off after impacting the bottom, it stands resembling a tilted "dunce cap" the port side partially embedded in the bottom. Swimming aft hull plates and ribs protrude from the bottom, forming the vague outline of a ship. The vessel's wooden superstructure broke off shortly after sinking. The pilot house, connecting cabins and another 40 foot section of deck house were towed to Nahant and salvaged. What remains of the hull has fallen outward to port and starboard.
    What structure remains attracts cod, ocean pout and other large fish. The wreck is a junkman's dream. Many beautiful artifacts have been recovered from the age of passenger steam travel.
    Although visibility can exceed 80 feet in late winter and early spring, this wreck must fall under the category of "Deep, Dark and Dangerous". Visibility will plummet to a few scant feet as spring wears into summer. The wreck also lies within the Boston shipping lanes. Large ship traffic is an ever present danger. Most of the charter boats frequenting this wreck require divers to be advanced certified.

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Historical Background

Constructed:    year - 1898   where - Wilmington, Delaware.
                      builder - Harlan and Hollingsworth Co.
Construction details: Two decks
Crew: 52    Master: Captain Adelbert Wickens
Owners: Charles L. Ellis, Bay State Steamship Company
Home or Hailing Port: Hartford, Connecticut
Former Name(s) and date(s): Tennessee (1898)
Official number: 145783      Country: U.S.A.
Other Comments:

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Dive Boat Magazine, July/August 1995
Merchant Vessels of the United States, 1938
The Boston Globe, September 10, 11, 14 and 15, 1936

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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
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