Chester Poling - Shipwreck Off Cape Ann

by, Peter L. Reagan

      Local Notice to Mariners LNM 15/77 announced "The tanker Chester A. Poling has broken in two and sunk. The bow section is in 190 feet of water in position latitude 42-33.9 North, longitude 70-37.1 West. The stern is in 81 feet of water in position latitude 42-34-25 North, longitude 70-40-15 West." The bow section sits upside down and is now visited only occasionally by a small cadre of very experienced, highly trained, and well equipped sport divers. But, the upright stern section is a popular dive site for many in the Cape Ann area near Gloucester, MA.

      The Poling was originally built by United Drydocks, Inc. at Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, NY in 1934 and named the Plattsburg Sacony. In 1956, the Avondale Shipyard added 29.3' to make her 282' overall, with a beam of 40' and a depth of 17'. In 1962 she was re-named the Mobile Albany. The Poling Transportation Co. of New York City bought and re-named her the Chester A. Poling in 1969.

      On the morning of January 10, 1977, she unloaded her heating oil cargo in Everett, MA and headed for her homeport of Newington, NJ. Captain Charles Burgess was soon struggling with 15-30' seas and 50 mph winds 8 miles off Cape Ann, MA. A big wave broke her in two, just aft of the midships pilot house. A mayday call was issued at 10:30 am. The USCG saved 6 of the 7 crewmen, The bow and stern separated by about six miles. The stern settled in at a depth of about 80'. The blizzard of 1978 moved the 200' long stern downhill to a depth of slightly over 100' at high tide.

      The stern of this former steel coastal tanker is a very popular dive site. Usually, there are two mooring buoys, maintained by local dive operators for everyone's convenience and safety. Divers will find the Poling's deck at a depth of about 75'. The maximum depth to be encountered is normally around 102'. Water temperatures range from cool to cold to freezing, so dress accordingly. First time visitors and inexperienced divers would be best served by cruising around the ships perimeter, on top of the deck. Qualified divers will find many penetrations from a cavernous opening at the forward end of the wreck to much smaller openings at the aft end. For those divers who do penetrate the Poling, a pull-and-glide technique is strongly advised to avoid stirring up a volume of soft sediment and debris.

      According to the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, the Poling is an "exempted" shipwreck, which means that no permits are needed for exploration (or even casual collection of artifacts). However, the only souvenirs contemporary divers are likely to find are loose bits of dive gear dropped by careless divers or maybe some modern china from a certain Boston hotel.

      Divers from the Metrowest Dive Club (MWDC) regularly visit the Poling on weekends. This shipwreck has also become a routine for several MWDC members on Thursday nights after work. Bring plenty of lights for night dives on the Poling.

Several dive boats are available for charters to this site. For a listing, check out the MWDC Dive Boat Locator.

Get more facts on the Chester Poling or read about a great April 1996 MWDC dive trip
Back to MWDC Shipwrecks

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This Page was Last Updated 10/05/97

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