Coastal Steamer HORATIO HALL

by Peter L. Reagan ( c ) 1995, all rights reserved

Deja Vu, All Over Again!

       The coastal steamer Horatio Hall was built at Roach's shipyard in Chester, Pennsylvania by the Delaware River Company. Her keel was laid in early November 1897 as a sister ship to the John Englis. She was christened at 1:15 pm on March 23, 1898 by Mrs. Jeannette Hall Clark, a daughter of Captain Horatio Hall. The Hall's official number was 96401 and her call letters were KNJL. Owned by Maine Steamship Company, her home port was Portland, Maine. The vital statistics of this steel vessel were tonnage 3,167 gross and 2,007 net, length 296.8' (319' LOA), beam 46.0', and draft 17.2'. Her six 180 psig boilers powered triple expansion engines yielding 4,200 indicated horsepower and producing a guaranteed speed of 17 knots. She would typically carry a crew of fifty five. Passenger accommodations were unusually good, with 135 staterooms on two upper decks. Total cost of the Hall was projected to be $400,000 (in 1898 dollars) when completed around June 1, 1898.

      Tuesday afternoon, March 9, 1909, the Dimock left New York headed for Boston. Under the command of Captain W. Frank Jewell, with five passengers and a crew of about forty, the Hall left Portland at 10:30 pm that same day bound for New York. The Hall carried 400 tons of freight including general merchandise and a cargo of cloth then valued at $100,000 on a trip that took about 18 hours in good weather. Both encountered fog at about 2 am. The Hall slowed to half speed.

      With calm seas and thick fog, Wednesday, March 10, 1909, the two vessels approached on a collision course. Shortly after 8 am, in foggy conditions, the Dimock's sharp bow hit the Hall's port side abreast of the mainmast with sufficient force to penetrate fifteen or twenty feet into the Hall's body.

      Captain John A. Thompson maintained the Dimock full ahead to keep the ships together and allow the Hall's passengers and crew to board the Dimock. The Dimock pushed the Hall toward shoal water on the South side of the channel.

      The Hall sank within a half hour at Latitude 41-33 North and Longitude 069-54 West, 3.8 nm East of Monomoy Island. Her hurricane deck remained above water. During that time, most of the Hall's crew left in six life boats and rowed to the Dimock. Although it was only a few feet above the water level, the Hall's Captain Jewell, his pilot, mate, and two seamen decided to remain in the pilot house.

      Luckily, there was no loss of life. But, seven days after being wrecked, the Maine Steamship Company declared the Hall a total loss. The US Government ordered the Hall blown up as a menace to navigation. There was some discussion of also declaring the Dimock a menace to navigation in the Chatham Roads area of the Atlantic Ocean. Later in that same day (March 16th), four enterprising young fishermen salvaged the Hall's safe.

      Within a few weeks more, local wreckers stripped the Hall of everything movable above the water line. That means there likely was a couple dozen feet of the Hall's depth they could not salvage. Although she was later explosively cleared by the Army Corps of Engineers, countless artifacts remain and a few usually surface during charter boat dive trips to the Hall. Some are undoubtedly still resting beneath a blanket of sand while others lie exposed for the sharp eyed diver to find, retrieve, and preserve.

      Like the nearby Alva, the Hall usually offers a bright warm golden glow for all who visit. The Hall is upright with her bow heading East-Southeast. Maximum depth is about 45' to the white sand bottom. There is about 25' over the remains of her six big boilers, which will offer a solid target for the dive boat's depth sounder. Generally, the Hall comes into view as soon as you hit the water, with visibility often 30' or more. Swimming Easterly from mid-ships, you pass along the port side of the blown up hull and boilers. These jagged metal pieces have no areas for penetration, but they do give shelter to a wide variety of encrusting animals and small darting fish. Reaching a tangled mass of steel near the bow, you notice a beautiful area with a heavy growth of southern kelp. Its long light brown blades shelter lobster, crabs, sea ravens, and sculpins. Moving Westerly along the starboard side, you observe the bottom is a few feet deeper than the port side, and seems to hold more starfish and flounder. Cunners and tautog lazily continue their search for food. Aft of the boiler section, you find two massive main propulsion gears off to the starboard side of mid-ships.

      Reaching the aft end of the major structural remains, you can tie off your wreck reel and continue on to find other bits of wreckage. Turning Easterly, you return to the anchor line wishing you had more time to explore in detail this lovely shipwreck.

Nearby are other fun shipwreck dives... check out the Aransas, Alva, and Pendleton

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This Page was Last Updated 07/04/02

Copyright 1997 by Peter L. Reagan
MetroWest Dive Club - All Rights Reserved