The Delray Wreck, Delray Beach, FL
Many of us have endured a hurricane in our time here in South Florida and one such Hurricane in 1903 has given us an historic site. There is an old shipwreck known as the Delray Wreck that rests at the bottom of the ocean about 150 yards offshore.
The wreck is broken and scattered into five sections and has long been one of the most popular diving spots in South Florida. The S.S. Inchulva was grounded and wrecked by a fierce hurricane on September 11, 1903. Under the command of Captain G.W. Davis, the 386 foot steel-hulled British steamship was bound for Newport News, Virginia from Galveston, Texas carrying wheat, cotton, lumber and a crew of 28 men. The storm struck about 5 pm, tossing the ship and causing the cargo to shift. Steering became impossible, so Captain Davis put out both anchors, but to no avail. The anchors parted and the Inchulva grounded and was ripped apart.
Nine crew members were lost. Dawn revealed to the battered crew that land and a town were just a short distance away. By noon, all the men except Captain Davis and two mates, had landed on shore in a small hastily-built raft. They found hot food and coffee at the Chapman House, a local hotel, where many of Delray’s residents had taken shelter during the storm. The nine seamen who lost their lives were buried on the ridge overlooking the ocean where the ship had gone down. The surviving crew members were treated, paid and sent to New York. Before leaving for their homes, each crew member signed the guest register of the Chapman House.
Under their names they wrote, ‘Shipwrecked in the S.S. Inchulva, September 11, 1903, landed on a raft September 12th and received every kindness and attention at the hands of Mrs. Chapman.’ Captain Davis, his Chief Officer, a 2nd Officer and a seaman from the ship were brought before the Naval Court held at the British Vice Consulate at Jacksonville on September 19th. The Court exonerated the Captain and the crew from all blame [Historicmarkers.com]. The Delray wreck is a macro photographer’s dream. Every piece of the ship is covered with soft and hard corals—the yellows and reds seem to be glowing as if someone turned on a light switch. Tiny hermit crabs abound along with red-and-white-striped coral-banded shrimp. Neon-blue cleaner shrimp also live here [South Florida Adventures].
There is abundant marine life and it’s not unusual to see large tarpon at the shipwreck site. Since winter storms tend to uncover the wreck, spring is the best time to dive this site. In 2003, Linda Reeves wrote a book titled “A Florida Shipwreck Rediscovered.” Take a moment to visit our historic site and even take a dive and photograph the wreck and the wildlife. The site is just offshore about 25 feet deep at the south end of Delray’s municipal beach, near Casuarina Road and A1A. Look for more Historic Marker information from the area in upcoming blogs.
Sources: Sponsored by the Historic Palm Beach County Preservation Board in cooperation with the Florida Department of State. American Dive Center, http://www.coralspringsscuba.com/local_diving/ld_beach.htm, South Florida Adventures, http://www.southfloridaadventures.com/archives/diving/the-delray-wreck-ss-inchulva/, A Florida Shipwreck rediscovered, Linda Reeves.