Wreck of the Onondaga, waters off Watch Hill, Rhode Island
The Onondaga was a steel hull freighter built in 1905 that sank off of Watch Hill on June 28, 1918. Bound for Charleston, North Carolina, she and her cargo encountered heavy fog off the Rhode Island coast. Lost in the fog she mistook Watch Hill Light for Race Rock – this mistake proved to be her downfall as she continued into what she thought would be deep water, but instead ran aground on one of the rock reefs. Her captain and crew all made it off safely, but the Onondaga sank swiftly with her cargo.
Today you can still find remnants of the automobile tires, shoe heels, broken china, and newspaper she was carrying. If you’re lucky or determined, you might find some intact china or glass bottles amongst the debris. The wreck presented a navigation hazard, so her superstructure was dynamited to clear the way – this results in a wreck this is open and exposed for divers to view.
Base your trip on the timing of the tides, as the area can be characterized by strong currents during the incoming and outgoing tides. Plan to arrive on site just before slack tide for the best diving conditions. You’ll find the average depth to be around 40 ft (12m). Her bow lies in 35 ft (11m), while her stern lies at the deeper depth of 55 ft (17m). Many of the local fish and invert species (or as some of our divers call them, “bioclutter”) call this wreck home – you’ll see Tautog, Cunner, Black Sea Bass, Lobsters, Anemones, and more. Be sure to bring along a wreck reel.
The locations is only accessibly by boat and is best visited with an experienced captain and crew.