Some of the best dive trips have been on the Miss Lindsey out of Rudee Inlet, Virginia. In 2008 Atlantic Divers has exclusive charters to some great wrecks. Below is an example:
Eureka Bottle Bonanza
By Gene Peterson
The dive boat Miss Lindsey glides over the site of the lost coastal freighter Eureka as the morning sun rises. It’s June 2002, the summer waters are warm and turquoise as the Gulf Stream current ebbs over the wreck. The white sandy bottom surrounds the embedded skeleton of the once proud Morgan Line steamer lost in a collision one hundred fourteen years before on May 6, 1888. Eureka was carrying a cargo of silk, cloth, lace, hardware, and medicine to New York when she was struck amidships by the Benison, a sugar freighter heading to the port of Philadelphia.
Captain Charlie Salle blasts the horn and the anchor chain plummets through the darkness, destination 110 feet below to the cold boilers of the old steamer. A spit in the mask, quick check of gauges, purge of the dry suit and I leap over the side, plummeting down the stretched tether of anchor rode. Forcing myself to equalize past the Amber Jacks that prowl the thermo cline, I drop onto the rusting hulk. Gathering the tie in line I hook the grapnel, and hurriedly wrap the inch diameter nylon lead around the broken internal frame of the boiler.
Off to the bow, I swim. There, coveted porcelain dolls, shoe polish, wine, ketchup, ginger ale and whiskey bottles have been uncovered. A shy lobster pokes out his claw, then retreats into his dark domain. A lucky crustacean, I am not hunting for dinner. Today, our group mission is to unlock more discoveries. Shifting the sand, I have released a few dolls and bottles from their time capsule. I returned to the anchor with extra time. A waning light is shimmering in the distance. Opportunity is a constant. Helping out always has led me to many great adventures and lucky scores. I happened upon Greg Modelle and Mark Clark blasting off crates with a scooter. In a team effort we break off the lid of a black coal encrusted crate. Bottles, all shapes and sizes appear. A closer examination in the now rising sunlight reveals what appears to be pickles, peppers and other numerous varieties of fruits or elixirs. Literally dozens of bottles popped out from the one container. Time cut short our party. We packed up our mesh goody bags with bootie. Mike Nugent exploring the outskirts of the area picked up a small brass bell. I ran a sisal lead line back to the boat’s anchor. Now, we can return directly for the balance of our stay. Other scooters and divers arrive at the site just as we depart. It is time for us to rise and bear the decompression debt.
The commotion of divers negotiating buoyancy changes, and shifting positions accents the lengthy decompression. Bags of bottles softly tinkle as each of us try to manage our fragile recoveries. The time passed quickly. Each of us surveyed the mesh bags dangling from our equipment lines and the varieties of finds seem endless.
On the deck of the Miss Lindsey, a bottle, show and tell began. The camaraderie was in full bloom as we exchanged stories, compared bottles and began cleaning out the smelly putrid contents. One in particular, Dr. Scooville’s Blood and Liver Syrup was intensely disgusting. When removing the cork; immediately my sinuses ran, eyes watered profusely and I gagged. Kneeling on the dive platform, I found myself alone until the stench dissipated. “Time for lunch.” I heard Becky Spalding our mate cry out in jest. My appetite was slightly diluted. I recovered quickly for the steaks and lobster later on that evening. Although, I had to rinse my sinuses with dish soap to eliminate the enduring odor.
During a relaxing surface interval lounging on the sun deck, we drew a diagram of the wreck. Mapping out our dive plan, we divided up into work teams, then shared more adventure stories and laughs. This was serious fun no one would be left out. Over the next few dives the group works the cargo in small groups. More bottles, dolls, deadeyes, a porthole and other unique finds are released. Each dive team is successful, exuberant and ready to share in their discoveries. History is told in many ways. Touching it is just as important as reading about it. Other trips back to the Eureka were just as exciting and fruitful. One of the most unusual finds are the pickle and pepper bottles marked “His Majesties Cupboard” with the tasty jerkins still packed intact. No one in the group had the courage to test the sour dills. Imagine pickles from 1888, still colorful and packed in their original brine. A delightful treat!
Eureka sank on May 6, 1888. This four masted steamship and her cargo were valued at over one million dollars at that time. Her masts remained a hazard to navigation until they where dynamited in the fall of 1888. The Baker Salvage Company worked the wreck site interrupted by weather and sea conditions for a few months. Little was retrieved due to the great distance offshore and the depth. Today, few worthy vessels can make the 60-mile trip comfortably. Miss Lindsey is a great dive platform, perfect for such excursions. An extended stay over the site as noted can be worthwhile. Atlantic Divers has planned several more expeditions to this wreck.
Check our schedule for more exciting Eureka adventures.