The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the wreck of the ship Robert J. Walker, a steamer that served in the U.S. Coast Survey, a predecessor agency of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Walker served as survey ship, charting the Gulf Coast — including Mobile Bay and the Florida Keys — in the decade before the Civil War. It also conducted early work plotting the movement of the Gulf Stream along the Atlantic Coast.
Twenty-one men died when Walker sank in rough seas in the early morning hours of June 21, 1860, about 10 miles off Absecon Inlet on the New Jersey coast. The crew had finished its latest surveys in the Gulf of Mexico and was sailing to New York when the Walker was hit by a commercial schooner off New Jersey. The side-wheel steamer, carrying 66 crewmembers, sank within 30 minutes. The sinking was the largest single loss of life in the history of NOAA or its predecessor agencies.