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Find information on this shipwreck and dive site managed by the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources (BUAR).

BUAR classifies certain shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological resources as "Exempted Sites" for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to): commonly known location, previous salvage, recreational value, educational value, or lack of significant archaeological or historical value. Recreational diving activities on these sites, including casual artifact collection, do not require a BUAR permit. However, any major disruption of the site is prohibited. The intent of creating an exempted shipwreck site is to preserve such sites for the continued enjoyment of the recreational diving community, who is encouraged to protect these sites for the continued enjoyment of all.

Note: All dives are conducted at your own risk. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts accepts no responsibility for loss of any kind, including personal injury or property damage. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts assumes no liability for inaccuracies in dive information contained in these pages including site locations and dive conditions.

Vessel Details

Description: Lighter, wood.
Dimensions: length 128.4 ft., width 30.9 ft., depth 10.1 ft.
Tonnage: gross 349.
Propulsion: Steam, single propeller.
Machinery: 2, single crank steam engines; 2, Scotch type, firetube boilers; Steam Winch.

The Shipwreck

Date Sunk: August 5, 1924.
Cause: Collision.
Location: Off Nahant.
Loran: 13961.2 and 44297.1.

A thick fog had settled over the waters of Broad Sound as the steam lighter Herbert made her way to Ipswich, from her homeport of Boston. Unknown to Herbert's Captain the passenger steamer City of Gloucester was on a collision course, coming down the coast on his regular run.

While still about 3 miles east of Nahant the south bound passenger steamer shot out of the fog ahead of Herbert and plowed into the smaller steamers port bow, about 20 feet aft of the stem. Seeing their vessel was doomed, Herbert's crew abandoned ship and was picked up by the City of Gloucester. Mortally wounded Herbert sank in fifteen minutes, miraculously there was no loss of life.

Both Captains were found to be at fault, their licenses were suspended for 15 days and they and the vessels' owners were fined.

Dive Site Conditions

Depth in feet: maximum 97, minimum 90.

From forward, swimming aft, the bow in unrecognizable, just scattered debris on a sandy bottom. The first recognizable structure found was the vessels steam operated winch. Herbert had a clam shell excavator, which can be found about 20 feet off the starboard side of the wreck, near amidships. The winch is heavily corroded and encrusted with marine life. Continuing aft little but an outline remains of the vessel's staunch wooden hull. Its two massive boilers stand upright at the stern of the vessel.

When I dove this wreck, in 1997, I got the impression the boilers were oil fired, due to the relatively small stoke holes. However these holes may have been access to an ash pit, the actual stoke holes perhaps corroded shut. It was a tight squeeze between the boiler but well worth it. On the other side I found myself surrounded by machinery from the age of steam. Two, tall single cylinder steam engines stand side by side, partially shrouded by fishing nets. What information I've dug up so far has led me to believe Herbert was a single propeller vessel. The shafts of these two engines lead into a large unidentified piece of machinery, which might comprise some form of reduction gear to a single propeller. Herbert's stern is a confused mass of wreckage, there was no sign of shafts or propellers.

Historical Background

Constructed: year 1910, at Noank, Connecticut by Robert Palmer & Son.
Crew: 12.
Owners: Boston Sand and Gravel Company.
Home or Hailing Port: Boston, Massachusetts.
Official number: 207913. Country: U.S.A.


Fishable Wrecks and Rockpiles; Coleman & Soares, 1989
Merchant Vessels of the United States; 1924
Merchant Vessels of the United States, Vessels Lost Chapter; 1925
The Fishermen Magazine; February, 1989

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