The Chester Poling Wreck
Location: Gloucester, off Eastern Point.
Coordinates: latitude 42° – 34′ – 25″ N; longitude 70° – 40′ – 15″W.
Loran: 13840.9 and 44327.8.
The wreck sits upright on a sand/silt bottom. Sediment has built up around the fantail, completely covering the prop. Some of the interior spaces are also silting up including the engine room and rear storage area behind the galley. Penetration can be made into the cavernous opening where the ship broke in two, as well as the vessel’s cargo and ballast tanks. Many local dive shops use this wreck for shipwreck certification and most of the area dive charter boats will take properly certified divers to the vessel.
Marine life has turned the tanker’s hull into an artificial reef. A centerline catwalk is festooned with anemones and other hydrozoans. Caution is advised due to the amount of monofilament and lobster lines that have snagged on the wreck.This fantastic wreck is a great intro to wreck diving for fairly new divers and a time old classic for those with experience.
The cost of the trip is $85 and an advanced certification is required
Crew: 7; Master: Captain Charles H. Burgess.
Owners: Motor Vessel Poling Bros. No.1 Inc.
Home or Hailing Port: New York, NY.
Former Name(s) and date(s): Plattsburgh Socony (1934), Mobil Albany ( ? ), Chester Poling (1956).
The Chester Poling, originally commissioned as the Plattsburg Scocony in 1934, was enroute to Newington, New Hampshire on the morning of January 10th, 1977 when it found it’s final resting point. It was leaving Everett, MA having just delivered a full load of Kerosene and trying to keep to their schedule. Captain Charles Burgess made the call to head home while the sea’s were rough, but still tolerable for the ship. The Captains confidence in the ship was met with Poseidens wrath as the sea’s grew to 30 feet and winds sharpened to 50mph by mid morning. Burgess immediately made a distress call to the coast guard as the sea’s continued to grow. In an attempt to stabilize the ship against the winds and crashing waves Burgess flooded four of the six cargo holds with water.
The Captains efforts were no match for the great seas. As Burgess attempted to steer the ship to calmer sea’s a monster wave connected with the tanker. Mother natures wrath split the ship into two sections 27 feet forward amidship. Coast Guard were on their way, but fierce winds and turbulant sea’s delayed helicopters from aiding the ship. The Coast Guard were able to get two boats out to aid the crew of the poling. The boats were able to pick up two members of the crew – including Captain Burgess, but the other 5 members were still stranded on the stern.
The high sea’s made it impossible for the coast guards boats to shoot a line to the stern and all they could do is wait. Finally around 1:30pm the weather had calmed a bit and a helicopter arrived on the scene. A basket was lowered and two of the five were able to climb a board and get pulled up. However, only one of the two crew members made the full journey into the helicopter. One of the members, Joao DeRosa had lost his grip – most likely due to a combination of stress, shock and freezing temperatures – and fell to a davy jones’ locker. The three remaining crew members abandoned ship as the stern section began approaching large rocks. After a short swim in the near 30 degree winter waters, the three remaining crew members were picked up by the cutters and helicopter.