The Asfalto is one of the less frequented wrecks off Long Island, New York's south
shore. She sits in 95 feet of water 16 miles south-west of Jones Inlet, an area
known as Wreck Valley. The Asfalto is an unidentified wreck, but she is thought
by some to be a schooner barge that was sunk back on March 12, of 1932. She is
approximately 300 feet long, has a 40 foot beam and a steel hull. Although not
confirmed, I also believe that there is a second wreck on the site, possibly the
tug which was pulling the barge. This would make sense because many times a
sinking barge would pull down the tug before the tow
cable could be cut.
Although, I have made several visits to the Asfalto, the wreck is so huge and
scattered that it's difficult to get a complete picture of the site. On one trip
I saw her large rudder and low lying bow complete with bow sprit. On another
trip I thought I recognized a steel bow with a samson post, similar to a tug
boat bow. Anyway, whether one wreck
or two the site is also known as the Cindy, Rudder or X-Ray Wreck, depending on
which dive captain you ask.
The Asfalto's remains are low lying and scattered over a very large area. There are
few easily distinguishable landmarks so it's recommended that divers utilize
dive reels for navigation. Inside her hull divers will find all sorts of
artifacts dating back to the late 1800's.
Over the years we have brought up everything from bottles and china to
silverware and even a ceramic spittoon. On most shipwrecks divers must dig in
order to find artifacts but the Asfalto is literally filled with a seemingly
unending supply of prized artifacts. If we are correct in our assumption that
the Asfalto is an old garbage barge that was most likely transporting garbage
from New York City to an offshore dumping ground. What divers find is the non
bio-degradable remains of what the barge had been transporting. Bottles,
silverware, ceramic pieces and bone have remained in near perfect condition,
unharmed after over 60 years of emersion in the powerful Atlantic. Note that the
bottom composition here is very silty.
This silt can and quickly does get kicked
up by divers digging on or exploring the wreck. Almost instantly visibility can
be temporarily reduced to near zero. This is just one reason why good
navigational skills are the key to becoming a good wreck diver.
Marine life on the site is also quite abundant but for divers the
Asfalto's main attraction is her abundance of artifacts.
This wreck is so productive that it is not at all uncommon for divers to
find an entire bottle collection in only one dive. Divers should however be
selective in which bottles they pick up. It's much better to pick out the older
and more valuable items rather then fill your bug bag with worthless junk.
Therefore, it's highly recommended to read up and get an education on bottle
collecting before descending to this shipwreck. Two easy tips are to only take
cork style bottles. Bottles with a screw tops are not as old. Bottles also
usually have mold seems. The seams of older bottles will only run about half way
up towards the bottles neck. Remember
to bring a mesh bag and fill it selectively. Only take bottles in perfect
condition no cracks or chips.
who want to experience diving the Asfalto Wreck first hand can utilize a number
of charter boats running out of Jones Inlet, New York or even from the Jersey
shore. New York's prime dive season
starts in May and runs through September. During this time, divers will want to
wear a full wet suit, hood, boots and gloves, especially while descending on an
offshore wreck. For the more hardy dry suited divers, the season can be extended
a bit, from April straight through December, weather permitting. Equipment
needed would be the same as for any cold water wreck dive. Depth gauge, bottom
timer, dive computer, two knives, lights, tether line and an adequate air
supply. Many divers choose to mount double tank systems, while others add a pony
bottle to their single tank. Once in the water divers will find that the
visibility in this area is usually excellent, that is until someone kicks up the
mud. Average horizontal visibility often exceeds 50 feet. Bear in mind that this
is only an average while actual visibility ranges from five to over 100 feet,
depending on wind, and weather.
The Asfalto may not be as well known or as popular as some of Wreck Valley's
larger more historical wrecks but she is certainly one of the most
productive bottle dives on the East coast.
For further information about dive charters to the Asfalto Wreck contact
the Eastern Dive Boat Association. Boats
run to this wreck only a few times each season but this dive is worth the wait.
Contact the Eastern Dive Boat Association, Capt Steve Bielenda, President
(516) 928-3849 for a complete dive boat listing. The Asfalto Wreck was also
recently the subject of a half hour television documentary. The Dive Wreck
Valley, Asfalto Show is now available on VHS tapes from Aqua Explorers Inc, (516) 868-2658.
While exploring this wreck remember that it has never been positively
identified. You may be the lucky diver to uncover a bell or windlass cover which
will reveal her true identity. In the mean time many divers will become avid
bottle collecting enthusiasts after visiting Wrecks Valley's Asfalto Wreck. The
Asfalto is an unidentified wreck thought by some to be a barge which was sunk on
March 12, 1932. She lies in 90 to 95 feet of water, just northwest of the
Immaculata wreck. From my dives on her wreckage, I would estimate that she was a
300 foot long, 40 foot wide, steel hulled sailing vessel. I noticed one mast
lying across her remains but didn't find any rigging or brass artifacts. Her bow
comes up out of the sand and is still recognizable while the rest of the wreck
is very low lying. The most intriguing thing about this wreck, which is also
known as the Cindy, or Rudder Wreck, is the abundance of bottles that divers
find on her. The best spot for smaller medicine bottles is on the port side aft
of her mast. Captain Bill Reddan told me that one of his divers found a gold
snuff box on the wreck, and it is usually a good spot for catching lobsters.
Photos: Artifacts recovered from the
Asfalto Shipwreck by Capt. Dan Berg.
Dan Berg and Mike McMeekin with
bottles and china recovered from the Asflato Shipwreck.
Dan Berg, Dick Long (from DUI Drysuits) and Ed Jenny after a dive to the Asflato