S.S. Newcastle City

An exploration team aboard the R/V Quest located the remains of the 19th century British Steamship Newcastle City on August 24th 2008, in the Atlantic Ocean South of Nantucket Island. Follow up dives conducted by the team on October 11th and 12th 2008, confirmed the identity of the wreck as that of the British steamship SS Newcastle City.

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The Newcastle City was lost on a voyage from South Shields England to New York with a general cargo that included several tons of antimony ingots. During the early morning hours of December 23rd 1887, the ship struck an uncharted shoal south of Nantucket Island, severely damaging the ships hull. The ship slowly filled with water and sank several hours later. After an arduous row of over six hours the crew of 26 and one lone passenger reached safety aboard the Nantucket Lightship, where they remained for two weeks until being brought ashore by the lighthouse tender Verbena. The Newcastle City was a transitional type passenger / cargo steamship built in Newcastle England in 1882. Although powered by a two cylinder compound steam engine the ship was also rigged as a brigantine. This was a common practice during the period in time when steam was replacing sail as the primary means of motive power for ships, in the late 1800’s.

The wreck was located after several years of historical research followed by field investigations during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Several interesting sonar targets were identified late in 2007, one of which appeared to be a likely target for the Newcastle City. Dives conducted on the suspected sonar target on August 24th 2008, confirmed the target to be that of the wreck of an iron hulled steamship slightly less than 300’ in length. The wreck lies on a white sand bottom with the hull largely collapsed, although portions of the bow and stern are somewhat intact. Two large boilers and a two cylinder compound steam engine are prominent features rising 15’ off the sea floor amidships. The wreck is a complete time capsule from the 19th century when iron hull construction and steam propulsion were surpassing wood and sail as the means to move the worlds commerce. The wreck site is littered with artifacts from the period both from the ship itself and the cargo. Deadeyes from the ships rigging are intermingled with steam fittings. A rare Trotman anchor stands 8’ off the seabed at the bow, with an equally rare Porter anchor lying nearby. At the stern a huge pile of antimony ingots polished by the sand and swift currents glitter like silver bars. 

Follow up dives were conducted at the wreck site on October 11th and 12th  2008, for the purpose of gaining additional photographs and information. Measurements taken on the ships machinery matched exactly, specifications listed for the ship in Lloyds Register of Shipping. The ships helm was also located with the words “NEWCASTLE CITY LIVERPOOL” engraved in the face of the wheel.

The exploration team working from the R/V Quest included captain Eric Takakjian, Steve Gatto, Tom Packer, Patrick Rooney, David Morton, Tom Mulloy, Michael Dudas, and Joseph Mazraani.

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