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State Submerged Resources > New Jersey

New Jersey

New Jersey is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Delaware Bay on the south, the Delaware River to the west, and New York and the Hudson River on the north. With 127 miles of coastline, more than 170 rivers and creeks, and 800 lakes and ponds, about 1,303 square miles of New Jersey (14% of the state) are covered by water.

What sites are underwater?

New Jersey may not have any major seaports but it is situated between major ports to the north and south on the Atlantic, and to the west in Delaware Bay and up the Delaware River. At least since the time of European exploration, tens of thousands of ships have sailed, steamed and otherwise made their way along New Jersey’s coastline, which offers little protection to ships, and up its rivers. As a result of storms, naval battles, and bad luck, an estimated 3,000 shipwrecks wrecked and sunk in New Jersey waters, including the following.

In conditions of heavy seas and fog, the USS Hisko accidentally rammed the steamship Almirante off Atlantic City on September 6, 1918. The Almirante, which was on its way to Panama, sank quickly with all its cargo. Years later, the Almirante suffered additional damage, being blown up, having wire dragged over it, and in 1942 having depth charges dropped on it by Coast Guard Cutter 464 that mistook it for a U-boat.

During World War II, the Germans deployed a number of submarines, Unterseeboots or U-boats, into U.S. waters off the Atlantic coast. One of these was the U-404 that, on March 3, 1942, fired three torpedoes into the Lemuel Burrows, also known as the Collier. Built in 1917 in Camden, New Jersey, the freighter Lemuel Burrows was running under blackout conditions off Atlantic City when it was hit and sank.

Another German submarine deployed off the Atlantic coast was the U-869 commissioned in 1944. After one unsuccessful war patrol, the U-869 was lost in 1945 presumably near Rabat, Morocco. In 1991, however, an unidentified U-boat was discovered in New Jersey waters. After six years of research and exploration that included the tragic deaths of three divers, the U-boat was identified as the U-869, which is thought to have been destroyed on February 11, 1945 by two U.S. destroyer escorts.

Under the state’s artificial reef program, over 100 ships and barges have been intentionally sunk along the New Jersey coast to provide underwater structures for scuba divers as well as habitat for marine life.

Who takes care of New Jersey’s underwater archeological sites?

Management authority over underwater archeological sites resides with several state offices in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The Historic Preservation Office administers the State historic preservation program to identify, evaluate, and assess impacts to historic properties; provides technical assistance to agencies and the public; and provides professional review and comment for a number of the state’s permitting programs including coastal regulation.

The Coastal Management Program develops coastal zone management rules including procedures for management of shipwrecks and historic and archeological resources in the coastal zone.

The Division of Land Use Regulation reviews project proposals for federal consistency and compliance with the coastal zone management rules and administers programs for protection of freshwater wetlands, flood hazard areas, coastal permitting, and tidelands.

What permits do I need to study shipwrecks?

When consistent with the protection of historic values and environmental integrity of shipwrecks and their sites, the Department of Environmental Protection may issue permits for the recovery of shipwrecks. Permits are subject to certain conditions including those relating to archeological research and marine habitat preservation.

What laws concern underwater archeology in New Jersey?

New Jersey’s archeological and historic preservation laws can be found in Title 13 of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated while laws on commerce and navigation are in Title 12. Within Title 13, the Historic Sites Council is covered in Chapter 1B-15.108 et seq., the New Jersey Register of Historic Places is addressed in Chapter 1B-15.128 et seq., and the Prohibition against Archaeological Site Disturbance is found in Chapters 1L-10 and 1L-23.

Relevant regulations for the Department of Environmental Protection are in Title 7 of the New Jersey Administrative Code. State Park Service Rules are in Chapter 2 et seq., New Jersey Register of Historic Places Rules are in Chapter 4-1 et seq., and Coastal Zone Management Rules are in Chapter 7E. Within Chapter 7E, shipwreck management is covered in 3.13 and historic and archeological resources in 3.36.

Under these laws and rules, the state of New Jersey is committed to enhancing the quality of life for its residents through the preservation and appreciation of the state's historic and archeological resources.

MJB