A S S O C I A T I O N   OF   U N D E R W A T E R   E X P L O R E R S  

June 20, 2006
IDENTIFICATION OF THE FERRY STEAMBOAT IDAHO

On June 18, 2006, a team of wreck divers identified the unknown "Paddlewheeler" off Hatteras, North Carolina, as the ferry steamboat IDAHO, which was lost in February 1895.  Divers Alan Russell, Uwe Lovas, Steve Lang, and Michael Barnette based their conclusion on the following archival information and observations:

 

Image of double-ended ferry steamboats working on the East River.

 

The 496-ton IDAHO was built by C & R Poillon Shipbuilders of Brooklyn, New York, in 1864 for the New York and Brooklyn Ferry Company. 

She was 153 feet along her waterline and 33 feet in breadth.

The "Paddlewheeler" rests in approximately 160 feet of water.  The wreck is dominated by a large boiler on one end, the remains of the paddlewheel assembly amidships, and a single engine on the other end.  The outline of the wreck is still faintly visible just above the sand, consisting of a series of double iron bands.  A few large wooden timbers outboard of the boiler are sometimes exposed by strong currents that frequently sweep over the wreck.  The hull mirrors itself on each end, with no discernable "bow" or "stern."  Length of the wreck based on measurements taken during dives yielded an overall length of 162 feet.  Divers observed that there was no connecting rod attached to the wrist pins of the paddlewheels.


(l) Diver swimming next to toppled engine; (r) remains of one of the paddlewheels.


(l) Paddlewheel hub assembly; (r) remains of the other paddlewheel.


(l) Boiler; (r) engine and linkage.

The position of the wreck is consistent with the documented sinking location of the IDAHO.

The 162 foot overall length measured by divers is consistent with the 153 foot waterline length of the IDAHO.

The barge-like construction and small size of the wreck indicates it was not a blue-water vessel.

The general paucity of artifacts is consistent with a small, utilitarian ferry of that era.

The placement of the boiler and engine on either side of the amidships paddlewheels is a logical configuration for a vessel serving as a ferry, as it would allow the vessel to be more balanced during loading/unloading, versus machinery positioned on only one end of the vessel. 

The IDAHO was a double-ended ferry, which explains the curvature of the hull being mirrored on both ends of the wreck.  This would allow a vessel to berth at either end, and save time from having to turn the ship around to approach the ferry terminal from one specific end.

The lack of a connecting rod attached to the wrist pins of the paddlewheels might be expected for a vessel under tow, such as the IDAHO, in order to reduce drag.

While there is no conclusive proof identifying the wreck as the IDAHO (based on the lack of diagnostic artifacts and wreckage found on the site there will likely never be conclusive proof), the team feels the above information presents a very strong case for the "Paddlewheeler's" identification as that of the IDAHO.