Workers Uncover 19th Century Shipwreck in South Jersey Town

Work on a coastal steel wall to protect one of the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy has come to a standstill after the discovery of a 19th-century shipwreck about 25 feet underneath the sand.

Mayor John G. Ducey said workers using a specialized drill struck the relic last week. They were doing excavating work for the 3.5-mile long structure, which is intended to shield Route 35 and oceanfront homes in Mantoloking and Brick on the northern barrier island from the catastrophic impact of a future major hurricane or nor'easter comparable to the Oct. 29, 2012, disaster.

"They hit something with the machine," Ducey told the Asbury Park Press. "The machine broke and they brought in a second machine and that one broke too, so then they decided 'let's see what this is,' and it was a shipwreck."

Experts and shipwreck historians were summoned to the scene in an attempt to identify the vessel, which is broken up into many pieces and made entirely of wood, with no iron or other metal, the mayor explained.

Those experts have theorized that the ship is the Scottish brig Ayrshire, which foundered off Seaside Heights on Jan. 12, 1850, with 201 English and Irish immigrants aboard, Ducey said. The incident is memorable because rescuers on the beach used a line-throwing gun, often referred to as a Lyle gun, to rescue the passengers, four at a time, from the wreck to the beach.

However, the location of the wreck has never been identified.

If the vessel is the Ayrshire, it might eventually find its next home in a museum, Ducey said.

As a consequence of the discovery, all work has stopped on the scene and the $23.8 million barrier is not expected to be ready by its Nov. 15 deadline, he said.

So far, more than 13,000 linear feet of steel sheet piling has been installed. The Mantoloking portion of the steel curtain was completed last month, when the last segment was finished on the beach between Brick and Mantoloking, across from Curtis Point. Three crews had been working in Brick, with the most vulnerable area of Brick's beach — adjacent to the Camp Osborn site — already protected by steel sheets.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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