Follow us on 
Aqua Explorers, Inc.

 
 
 
The Mistletoe Shipwreck  New York's Wreck Valley
Historical and current New York's Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers and fisherman.
 

The Mistletoe was a wood hulled side wheel steam ship built in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1872.  She was 152.6 feet long had a 26.7 feet beam, displaced 362 gross tons, 147 net tons and was powered by a 370 horsepower engine. The Mistletoe was originally a lighthouse tender, her Official number was 222226. Her job of transporting supplies to lighthouses was eventually taken over by faster vessels and the Mistletoe was sold to be used in the fishing excursion business.

 At 8:15 AM, May 5, 1924, the Mistletoe left the Battery and churned her way towards the fishing grounds. She was under the command of Captain Dan Gully and carrying 76 passengers including 15 women and six children. At 11:30 the vessel reached its destination and the anglers began to fish for whiting and ling. The NEW YORK TIMES reports that "at 12:45 a man went down into the after cabin to change his coat and saw smoke coming up from the hold" Captain Gully was summoned from the pilot house and upon seeing the fire ordered all passengers to the bow. The crew tried desperately to extinguish the flames with both hose and buckets. Meantime the news that the Mistletoe was on fire had been reported to police headquarters by the nearby steamship Hamilton. Police boat #3 was dispatched. In less then 30 minutes after the fire had been discovered the passengers, with the exception of nine volunteer fire fighters, had been removed onto other fishing boats in the area. The NEW YORK TIMES report one interesting story during the rescue " William Holmes said that the only incident in getting off the burning craft was when a women weighing about 300 pounds, who was a passenger, fell into his arms and nearly carried them both over the side. With the aid of two other passengers she was lowered safely into the fishing boat along side". Captain Gully was still fighting to save his vessel. At one point he was lost in the smoke, when he emerged he collapsed. After being revived he was taken off the Mistletoe in a tug. By the time Police boat #3 and the fire boat William Gaynor reached the site the Mistletoe was only a charred wreck and had burned to the water line. Shortly after she sank and now sits a few miles off Far Rockaway. It will never be know exactly what caused the fire that day, Captain Gully estimated the loss at $50,000. Fortunately everyone got off safely with the exception of a few minor smoke related eye injuries.

 After examining two photocopies copies of an old newspaper article, given to me by Captain Bill Reddan, I came across a couple of interesting facts. One of the photographs in the article shows the Mistletoe with excursion passengers on her upper deck waiting for rescue boats. In this picture you can see that she is flying the American flag upside down, a signal of distress. The other photograph shows the pilot boat, Sandy Hook, which would herself sink in 1939, in the foreground standing by to lend assistance to the burning Mistletoe. Unfortunately I have not been able to trace the origin of these photographs in order to obtain clear copy.

 The Mistletoe now lies in 42 feet of water, four miles southwest of East Rockaway Inlet, (Debs Inlet) in an area known as Wreck Valley. Her remains provide homes for lobster, ling, black fish and even small cod.  Divers can recognize the remains of her paddle wheels and her boiler as well as lots of copper sheeting.  The copper sheeting had been used to plate her hull so worms couldn't eat through the wood. Divers can also find brass spikes on the wreck, but most require a good amount of work to remove. This wreck is usually surrounded with decent visibility, averaging from 15 to 25 feet. The Mistletoe is ideal for the beginner or novice wreck diver, her shallow depth, and lack of strong current make the dive relatively easy, and certainly enjoyable to explore. The Mistletoe is also an excellent spear fishing location. Divers should be able to find a few big black fish swimming around her boiler on almost every dive.  


Diver Steve Jonassen with a goblet recovered from the Mistletoe wreck. Photo by Dan Berg

 

 

Mistletoe Wreck. Photo courtesy Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection

Underwater sketch of the Mistletoe shipwreck. Courtesy Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection.

Painting of the Mistletoe by Frank Liter.

Diver Frank Liter with a porthole from the Mistletoe Shipwreck. Photo courtesy Dan Berg Wreck Valley Collection

Capt. Ed Slater with brass valves from the Mistletoe shipwreck.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

Shipwreck Expo Free Newsletter
Sign up for our free e-mail shipwreck, diving and Treasure Hunting newsletter. Capt. Dan Berg has designed this e-mail service for all wreck divers, maritime historians and treasure hunters.
 

Subscribe Now


 

Follow us on 
 Wreck Valley Charters