The Wreck Site of the USS NEW YORK

Contributed by Mark Webb-Johnson
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Below is a preliminary description of the wreck of the former USS NEW YORK (later USS ROCESTER) as she lies on the bottom of Subic Bay.

Please note that diving on this wreck is dangerous, and divers have been lost aboard her. Diving on the wreck requires diving expertise.

The Description:

The USS NEW YORK lies in 100' of water, on her portside, with the topmost parts of the wreck at 60'. The wreck is sunk into the silty bottom partly by natural settling and, at the bow, by explosive charges laid by HCU-1 during the Vietnam war. The HCU-1 report seems innaccurate in that it states the wreck was blown apart. There is significant damage to the starboard side of the bow, and in particular mess and gun decks at the bow, but the wreck is still intact. All wood has pretty much gone by now, leaving behind the steel superstructure. The majority of hatchways seem to have been left open.

Diver Mark Webb-Johnson at wreck of U.S.S. New York

Diver Mark Webb-Johnson swimming down to the wreck site.

There are five decks of interest. The topmost deck ("main deck") was open to the air (except in the center of the ship it is covered over where the bridge and boiler room hatches used to be) - it contains two sets of turret-guns (one aft, one forward) both of which are intact. The bridge is lost to worms.

One deck down is the gun deck ("gun deck"), characterized by easy access via many large gun ports, interior dividing bulkheads are missing and it's easy to penetrate this deck.

Next deck down is the accomodation/mess/officers-quarters deck ("berth deck"), characterised by a row of small portholes too small to penetrate. There are two square hatchways near the stern (the rear-most being 7 portholes forward of the stern) which are open and easy to penetrate. Once in the berth deck, the diver sees that all wooden bulkheads are missing, allowing relatively easy access throughout this deck. In fact, the diver can penetrate the entire deck all the way forward to the bow - the only obstructions being a few bulkheads where the diver must travel towards the port side central mess deck, forward one compartment, then back towards the starboard again.

Open hatch, wreck of U.S.S. New York

Typical open hatch on the wreck

Next deck down are the stores, coal bunkers, magazines deck, with no direct access through the hull, the diver may enter through holes in the floor of the mess deck. There are several such access points, but the easiest seem to be aft through grills under the aft gun turrets on the big-gun deck.

All the above decks are roughly six foot high. The final deck, at the lowest point of the ship, is the engine room, which is characterised by it's height - over 20 feet. Access to the engine room deck is extremely difficult. Near the sides of the ship, coal chutes can be seen going to coal bunkers at the sides of that deck, but no direct access passageways via the berth/store decks have yet been found. Currently, we are accessing this deck via a hole blown by explosives near the bow of the ship. The hole in the starboard side of the ship exposes what should be the coal bunkers at the side. Here, we can see perhaps a dozen or more 4" to  6" pipes which seem to run the length of the ship (we don't know what these pipes would carry). There is also a hole (seems to be a hatchway) in the side of the coal bunker, leading directly to the forward fireroom/boiler room. It's an extremely tight squeeze through this (perhaps this has put-off other divers in the past and is the reasons this deck seems completely unexplored).

Once in the deck where the engine room is, the diver is presented with the forward fireroom. Mostly empty, the room measures roughly 50' x 50' x 20' (from visual estimates, not plans). There seems to be remnants of catwalks now lying in the rubble on the port side. Proceeding forward, the diver can penetrate pretty much to the bow of the ship. Proceeding aft, the diver hits a bulkhead (this used to be a double-bulkhead, but the second has collapsed). We have found three ways through this bulkhead (small, medium and large) so we are happy with the safety margin here. Aft of this bulkhead is the second fireroom, roughly central in the ship. Again, this fireroom seems empty with wreckage lying on the port side of the ship, including some remaining catwalk. The size of the second fireroom is roughly comparable to the first. At the top of the engine deck, starboard side, there are some large control valves (perhaps 2' - 3' diameter), we presume controlling steam flow.  Smaller pipes (4" diameter) lead through the aft bulkhead. A small hatchway leads to a coal bunker on the starboard side, but this is obstructed by a large control valve.

This final bulkhead proved frustrating, as we could find no way through except for a closed hatchway. We employed the wreck divers final solution and brought down a crowbar. Opening this hatchway, we found a passageway leading aft. After 6' or so, there is a rectangular doorway, leading to a small boiler room (maybe 6' long) and another rectangular doorway. Looking through this third doorway, and according to the plans, seems to be the part of the engine room where the engines should be. We have not had a chance to explore past this point, however, as the safety margins are reduced to zero by that restriction.

We have confirmed there are four engine rooms, all seperated by watertight bulkheads. We have confirmed that all four engines are still in place. All major components are still present in the wreck, although connecting pipework has been largely removed (or perhaps broken off due to shifting or equipment in wreck). This confirmation and understanding is largely possible as a result of Patrick McSherry's help and photographs of the USS OLYMPIA; without seeing what the components look like in real life, we'd have no possibility of recognizing them on their side, in the water, and covered in silt.

We continued with exploration of the engine room. By line distance measurements, we confirmed this to be the starboard aft engine room, and followed propellor shaft through a bulkhead to the thrust bearing towards the stern of the ship. Levering open some rusted metal holes, we managed to pass through to munition storage rooms near the stern, and connect to a maze of exploration line we laid here during our first expedition early 1998. We can exit through the stern of the ship, here.

We also continued through the aft starboard engine room, heading forward to a dividing bulkhead, and then
through to port side aft engine room connecting door, and out through engine hatch. Near this point, we identified a junction point, with hatches connecting all four engine rooms.

Panel of gauges, Engine Room, wreck of U.S.S. New York

Panel at the junction point of the four engine rooms in the USS NEW YORK. This location was designed so, at this point, the engineering officer would have access and control over all four engine rooms simultaneously. The information on this panel gave pertinent data on the propulsion system.

The forward starboard forward engine room we found what we believe to be a condenser next to the engine piston block, at the top-most level of the engine room. We have a very nice dive here, passing along the tops of the engine piston block, as well as underneath the pistons along the propellor shaft. We visually confirmed that the forward-most bulkhead of this engine room is the aft boiler room's aft-most bulkhead, by rendevouz with safety divers.

In the port forward engine room conditions here are very tight, and silty. We also checked out port aft engine room to confirm it's location and condition; which is even more silty. Both rooms are extremely hard to explore, as they are below level of sea bed and hence very silty.

We have established, and made safe, three entrances to the engine rooms; this greatly improves our safety margin when exploring this wreck.We have placed warning signs at the two primary entrances, to warn untrained divers
that penetration in this area is extremely dangerous. We have cleared out a large amount of silt from the starboard engine rooms, making conditions much easier.

Heinz Gossl next propeller, wreck of the U.S.S. New York

Heinz Gossl outside wreck, floating next to starboard propellor. The propellor has three blades; part of one blade is shown in the left of the picture. Unfortunately, visibility outside, is not good due to the depth
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