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Local Diving - Ship Wrecks - Lofthus

  
The Lofthus is Boynton's oldest shipwreck and Boynton's only natural shipwreck. It is located in 15 feet of water just North of the Boynton Inlet. While little remains of the once 222 foot long wreck, it makes a great 3rd dive in the summertime on the way back from diving Horseshoe and Casino Reefs.
  
2003 Photos
   
Click here for Lofthus 2003 photo gallery.
       
The 2004 hurricanes uncovered significant portions of the Lofthus (shown below)  that had been buried in the sand. Now more than ever, this is a great 3rd dive site when the seas are calm.

2005 Photos
Click here for Lofthus 2005 photo gallery.

The following information on the Lofthus was taken from A Proposal to Establish the Shipwreck Lofthus as a State Underwater Archeological Preserve which was prepared by the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research. Click here for a complete copy of the report.

Abstract

The Lofthus is a barque-rigged Norwegian vessel that wrecked off Boynton Beach in 1898 while en route from Pensacola to Buenos Aires with a cargo of lumber. As an easily accessible historic shipwreck, Lofthus meets all criteria to become an excellent addition to Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserve system.

Vessel History

The vessel now wrecked off Manalapan was built at the T.R. Oswald shipyard in Sunderland, England, and was launched under the name Cashmere on October 5, 1868, in the heyday of metal sailing ships. The vessel’s recorded dimensions were 222.8 feet in length, 36.7 feet in beam, a depth of hold of 22.7 feet, and 1,277 gross tons with two decks. The ship’s hull was of riveted iron construction and it was rigged as a barque with three masts (the foremast and mainmast were square-rigged while the mizzenmast was fore-and-aft rigged). Cashmere was owned by the Liverpool Shipping Company and managed by H. Fernie & Sons; used in the East Indian trade, the vessel had false gunports painted along her sides to deter Sumatran and Javanese pirates. In 1897, Cashmere was sold to a Norwegian named Henschien, renamed Lofthus, and transferred to the American trade.

On February 4, 1898, while en route from Pensacola to Buenos Aires with a cargo of lumber, Lofthus was wrecked on the east coast of Florida. The local seagoing tug Three Friends (which usually was engaged in running guns to Cuba) attempted to assist the stranded barque, but she was high on the beach and quickly being pounded to pieces by waves. The crew of sixteen men was saved but the vessel was a total loss. While stranded on the beach, Lofthus ’ Captain Fromberg, traveling with his family, entertained local residents and gave the ship’s dog and cat to one family. After being stripped of all useable items, the wreck was sold along with
800,000 feet of lumber stowed in the hold for $1,000. In September 1898, the hull, which was not nearly so valuable as the cargo, was dynamited so that the lumber could be salvaged. Interestingly, the barque Oh Kim Soon was wrecked in almost the same location one year earlier, causing confusion for many years as to which wreck was which.

Location

The wreck of Lofthus is situated approximately 175 yards off the shore of Manalapan and of a mile north of Boynton Inlet at DGPS coordinates 26 33.776 N and 80 02.309 W. The site is marked as unidentified wreck #133 on NOAA Chart 11466 and is in 15-20 feet of water. Wreckage rises as much as 6 feet off the sea floor. The Lofthus shipwreck is listed as site number 8PB10360 in the Florida Master Site File at the Division of Historical Resources in Tallahassee. As with all other historical and archaeological sites on public uplands or submerged bottomlands, title to its remains is vested with the State of Florida’s Division of Historical Resources, under Chapter 267 of the Florida Statutes. This law forbids unauthorized disturbance, excavation, or removal of artifacts, in order to protect the site for the people of Florida.

Physical Description of Site

The 223-foot long iron sailing vessel grounded on a flat sandy bottom with her bow pointing northeast on a heading of 42. After wrecking, the ship was dynamited to remove the cargo of lumber which was valued more than the old and damaged hull. This action produced the scattered and disarticulated features seen today.

Features of the barque still are recognizable, however, including deck beams, an iron mast, rivets, and hull plates. Sand movement due to storms and wave action at this site is considerable, causing large portions of wreckage to periodically cover and uncover.

Biological Description of Site

The wreckage provides an ideal haven for a diverse array of marine life. Soft corals thrive on the iron hull while cavities beneath the deck provide a haven for damsel fish and spiny lobsters. Southern stingrays hide in the sandy flats between hull sections. Colorful tropical fish inspect all visitors to their home and aggressive sergeant-majors defend their niches. Scorpionfish may be seen glaring out from their burrows under deck beams. Despite frequent visitation to the wreck by fishermen and divers, there is little litter or debris.

Today, the sunken Lofthus teems with marine life; features of the once-sleek barque are recognizable on the white sand bottom, providing a magical adventure for the underwater visitor. Yet, many who come across the broken wreckage have little knowledge of the ship’s history and the circumstances that conspired to leave her a permanent resident of the waters off Boynton Beach.
  

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