Photo of the Cumberland aground off Ft. Lauderdale
Army Corps of Engineers dredge CUMBERLAND
By Steven Danforth Singer
The seagoing hopper dredge Cumberland went aground off Ft. Lauderdale, June 24, 1931 (north end of present-day Galt Ocean Mile), supposedly on a pile of cement jettisoned from another vessel years before, though her remains are in shallow water and could have just as well grounded on the reef there (see photo of vessel aground). She was built in 1902 at Belfast, Maine, 200’ x 40.8’ x 20’, and was the last of the self-propelled, steam-class vessels in use by the Army Corps of Engineers. Deemed not salvageable as her bottom was breaking up, and the fact she was an older vessel, it was then abandoned. The wreck remained visible above water up until WWII, when it was used as target practice by pilots training at the Naval Air Station, Ft. Lauderdale. One of those pilots was former President George H. W. Busch. From the book Shipwrecks of Broward County. by myself and J. Dean, "she left Savannah on June 22, 1031 at 3 p.m. on her way to Key West to refuel and then to Mobile. AL for annual drydocking and repairs. Her Capt. was Joseph M. Lavell, but was under the command of Chief mate A.W. Carter since the captains' Coast Guard License was not endorsed for these waters." On Tues. night June 24th, the Captain came to the bridge and noted the vessel was in shoal water. He ordered the Chief mate to alter course but she eventually went aground at her present resting place (was said on a pile of cement jettisoned a few years earlier by another vessel-but I'm trying to verify that). Heavy seas pounded her hull and local Coast Guard attempt to get her off failed. The crew of 50 were taken off that Wednesday, and the next day a Navy tug from Key West arrived, but was also unable to free her as her hull was now damaged and filling with water. Major D.L. Weart, U.S. district engineer arrived on Thursday and "after a quick assessment decided to abandon her both for the safety of the crew that remained and the fact that she had outlived her usefulness and was not worth an expensive salvage operation,"
We looked for the wreck in the 80’s, but much of the area was sanded in, and only saw some pieces of coal. Recently in 2021, we re-visited the area and found much of the wreck exposed, scattered over a large area among the reef. See attached photos.
I’ve attached a copy of an article from the newspaper The Republican Journal, of Belfast Maine, dated 8/28/1902, describing the dredge. I’ll presume much was likely salvaged from the wreck prior to WWII. Her wood hull has long since disintegrated or succumbed to the teredo worm. We’re trying to identify some of the scattered remains and hope to produce a site sketch of the site in the near future. Any new information will be added here.
Article describing the newly built dredge Cumberland from: The Republican Journal, Belfast, ME, 8/28/1902.
CUMBERLAND in dry dock. From book: "Shipwrecks of Florida"
Following photos by Steve Singer. Taken 2021 & 2023-Just a small sampling of the wreckage. (Check out the video section)
As yet unidentified wreckage in debris field
More scattered wreckage
Possible hawsepipes (bow area?)
Ship's ladder on site
Unknown structural piece
Believe a chain plate for mast support
Possible dummy bomb from WWII and diver next to one for scale.
Unidentified machinery piece with numerous bolts.
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