History of Asbury Park
THE NEW ERA AND THE MORRO CASTLE DISASTERS
In what can only be referred to as a “Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not” moment, two of America’s most important maritime disasters, the 1854 New Era and the 1934 Morro Castle shipwrecks , occurred right off of Asbury Park, exactly 80 years apart.
But what makes them worthy of Ripley is that both of these tragic maritime disasters occurred exactly on top of each other, just off of the present-day Convention Hall.
These two incredible maritime tales will be told by the Asbury Park Historical Society at a special presentation on Saturday, Sept. 8, the 78thanniversary of the Morro Castle disaster.
In-depth presentations on both shipwrecks will be given at the ShowRoom, 708 Cookman Ave., at 1 p.m. Admission is $10 for the general public or $5 for Historical Society members.
For advance reservations or more information go to www.APHistoricalSociety.org. Tickets are also available at the door and seating is limited.
The society will also hold its annual Morro Castle commemoration on Sept. 8 at 10 a.m., near the Morro Castle memorial just south of the Paramount Theatre.
Asbury Park Historical Society President Don Stine warns that the graphic presentation will be a “no-holds-barred” discussion and that some people may want to think about attending.
You need to know that these were both very gruesome incidents, which is exactly why they changed American maritime history. People will see disturbing images, including dead bodies and some brief nudity regarding the Morro Castle, and hear disturbing verbal descriptions about the New Era. What happened with both shipwrecks is not a pretty picture,” he said.
Guest speakers will include Dr. Richard Fernicola, Allenhurst, and Deal Historian James Foley. Fernicola, and his brother, Gregory, retrieved the New Era anchor off of Convention Hall in 1999.
And Fernicola said he has to agree with Stine’s assessment.
“Multiple writers at the time of the New Era used almost the same one-line statement when writing about the shipwreck, basically stating that never before in the experience of the writers had they ever seen, or ever hoped to see again, the gruesome sight they beheld when they boarded the New Era,” he said.
Fernicola said he will also bring a six- by three-foot wooden piece, believed to be from the New Era, to the presentation, which will be the first time the general public has ever seen a piece of the actual ship.
Foley said that even famous American author Stephen Crane, who spent his teenage years living in Asbury Park, knew about the New Era disaster.
“So gruesome and disturbing were the images at the wreck of the New Era that even Crane found the wretched details worthy for a mention in one of his ghost stories,” he said.
The New Era was sailing from Germany when it grounded on Nov. 13, 1854 on a sand bar off the coastline of the future Asbury Park during a severe nor’easter. Rescuers arrived on the ship the next day only to find a grisly scene of dismembered bodies and passengers dead in the ship’s hold or while still lashed to the masts and rigging. Only 132 survived and 240, more than the 137 victims in the Sept. 8, 1934 Morro Castle, died from exposure or drowning.
The Asbury Park Historical Society will also have information on both shipwrecks on display at their booth in the Antique Emporium, 646 Cookman Avenue, beginning August 25.
Parking may be difficult in Asbury Park on that Saturday but Stine reminds people that the NJ Transit train station is less than one block away from the ShowRoom.
For more information contact Don Stine at 732-774-4590 or at email@example.com