A shipwreck off the coast of New Jersey has been a popular haunt for divers for decades but it remained unidentified until today.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Tuesday that the ship is the Robert J. Walker, a steamer that served in the U.S. Coast Survey (a precursor to the NOAA).
The vessel sank in rough seas after a collision with a commercial schooner on June 21, 1860, killing 20 of the 66 on board.
Built in 1847, The Walker was returning to New York upon completion of a pre-Civil War Gulf Coast surveillance mission when it sank.
“Before this identification was made, the wreck was just an anonymous symbol on navigation charts,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “Now, we can truly honor the 20 members of the crew and their final resting place. It will mark a profound sacrifice by the men who served during a remarkable time in our history.”
Sitting 85 feet below the surface near Atlantic City, the wreck was discovered in the 1970s by a commercial fisherman. However, the NOAA only recently decided to investigate it—during navigational safety missions in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
"It's estimated there are 3 million shipwrecks in the waters of the world," said James Delgado of the NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Office. "You can't go out and look for every [wreck], but sometimes the situation arises when you have an opportunity to do that. This was a perfect convergence of opportunity."