Wreck Diving NJ
This past July 4th I had the opportunity to do a dive on the wreck of the Stolt Dagali. The Stolt is located 16 miles off Manasquan Inlet in NJ. The Stolt was originally a 583' long by 70' wide steel tanker weighing 19150 ton. On November 26, 1964 it was hit by the luxury liner Shalom in a dense fog, breaking off 142' of the stern which took 19 of the 43 crew members to the bottom. It now lies on it's side in 130' of water.
The waters off the coast of NJ are filled with ship wrecks. Some have tragic stories like the Stolt, some are there from World War II and some were put there on purpose as part of an artificial reef program. What these shipwrecks do now is create habitat for marine life, which makes them good locations for scuba diving and fishing.
Diving in NJ is a bit more challenging than diving in many other areas and is not recommended for your average beginner or vacation diver. The water is colder, darker, there is a good possibility of current, the visibility is way less than your average tropical dive and the seas are usually more trubulent. Because of these factors more gear is required. A thick wetsuit or drysuit, a pony bottle, wreck reel, lights, more weight, bigger tanks or doubles and most people use Nitrox.
So why do I do it? I do it because there are critters up here that I will not find in warm water destinations. I also find it very interesting to dive on a ship wreck that was once operating and has now been sitting on the bottom for 50+ yrs creating a habitat for so much marine life. To know that a ship like the Stolt had such a tragic end and to see it now on the bottom of the ocean compared to pictures of when it was operating is very humbling and powerful.
Lucky for us, July 4, was a beautiful day with calm seas and a great day to go diving. The captain and crew of the dive boat Gypsy Blood were fantastic, helpful and always doing there part to make sure we all had a safe and enjoyable dive. Our first dive Liz and I decided to explore the upper part of the wreck, as we had not dove this wreck before and also wanted to get a feel for the conditions. There are tons of plumose anenomes and hydroids covering the wreck and we even spotted some small nudibranchs in the hydroids. Unfortunately I was unable to get a quality picture of them and my memory did not serve me enough details to identify exact species. There were also cunners, seabass, tog, a few species of comb jelly as well as some snails. We mainly spent time exploring the wreck and enjoying the fact that it wasn't just a pile of rubble and actually still had the shape of a ship.
Dive 2 we decided to go down the side of the ship to the bottom to see if there was anything interesting living near or in the sand. In addition to what we saw on Dive 1, we found 2 ocean pouts using some loose pieces of boat as cover and also saw spotted a few blood seastars. The blood stars as well as one species of comb jelly was new for me so I was quite excited. On this dive we maxed out at 124' and hit a low temp of 46 degrees Farenheit.
The trip was definitely in my top 2 NJ boat trips and was completely worth braving the cold water temperatures for a couple new species to add to my list, a pair of large ocean pout and a great wreck to explore. I will definitely try to make it back to this wreck. I had been signed up to go several times before but weather caused those trips to be cancelled. That is all part of diving in NJ.
You can see a short video of this dive on my Flickr account