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USS Algol

Stolt Dagali
Thanksgiving Tragedy

By Michael Salvarezza and Christopher Weaver
Image: Courtesy National Archives
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East Coast Diving | Shipwreck Corner | Shipwreck Gallery

When most people awoke on November 26, 1964, their thoughts were on the turkey dinners they would be enjoying later that day. Undoubtedly, many were preparing for family gatherings, good food and a break from work. It was Thanksgiving, and they were unaware of the dramatic events that had occurred at sea during the night.

At 2 a.m., the Norwegian tanker Stolt Dagali, en route from Philadelphia to Newark, New Jersey with a cargo of molasses, vegetable oil and solvents, encountered a dense fog bank as she cruised north along the New Jersey coast. At the same time, the Israeli luxury liner Shalom began her cruise south from New York harbor to the Caribbean. The Shalom was carrying more than 1,000 people, including passengers and crew. As the Shalom passed the Ambrose Lightship at the entrance of New York Harbor, the night was clear. But shortly after 2 a.m., the Shalom encountered the fog as well.

Soon after, the Shalom’s radar picked up another ship less than two miles off her starboard bow. When the Stolt’s red running lights became visible, it was obvious that the two ships were at right angles to each other. The Shalom attempted to turn but could not avoid the collision. The Shalom hit the Stolt Dagali on the port side just behind the bridge. The Shalom’s momentum and thrust from her 25,000 horsepower steam turbines allowed the luxury liner to completely shear the tanker in two. The rear section of the Stolt Dagali sank within minutes while the front section remained afloat. The massive force of the collision pitched many crew members aboard the Stolt into the bitter cold water and the 55 degree water soon claimed the lives of 19 men.

At 2:23 a.m., an S.O.S. was received by the Coast Guard station in Moriches, Long Island. Within minutes, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and Coast Guard Cutters were dispatched. However, because of the heavy seas, driving rain and dense fog, the first helicopter was not able to make contact with the vessels until 4 a.m.

The captain of the Stolt, Kristian Bendikson, and ten of his men were still aboard the Stolt using the bow section as a safe haven. The Navy and Coast Guard were able to rescue these eleven men and fourteen others from the rough seas. The Shalom, while suffering a 40 foot gash in her bow, was crippled but remained afloat. She was able to make her way back to the Canal Street Pier in New York City by 3:10 p.m., with only one injury to a passenger. The bow section of the Stolt was subsequently towed back to port. The Army Corps of Engineers originally refused entry to the Stolt because of their fears that she would sink and clog the shipping channels. Eventually, the Stolt was towed to Gravesend Bay where she was partially salvaged.

Today, the stern section of the Stolt Dagali lies in 130 feet of water 15 miles off the New Jersey coast, northeast of Barnaget inlet and Southeast of Manasquan Inlet. This wreck is one of the most popular of the countless shipwrecks that exist off the coast of New Jersey and Long Island and during the wreck diving season dive boats from these areas frequently run trips to this location. The wreckage rises to within 65 feet of the surface and provides opportunities for almost any level of diver. The Stolt is washed in the clear, warm waters of the Gulf Stream and generally has excellent visibility. Covered with cold water anemones and populated with large schools of fish, the Stolt is a excellent wreck for the diver interested in observing marine life. Because of its location, larger pelagic animals are often seen at this sight, including Mola Mola, Leatherback Turtles, Whales and Sharks.

The Stolt is also a picturesque wreck for underwater photographers. Aside from the damage caused by the collision, the wreck is largely intact. Less than 200 feet long, it can be circumnavigated easily and it provides many opportunities for wide angle photography. Photographs of its corridors, ladders and portholes are common.

Ship Specifications

Date Sunk: 
Date Commissioned: 
Length: 
Beam: 
Draft:  
Displacement: 
Type of vessel: 
Hull Construction: 
Depth of Water:
Condition: 
Location:  
Skill Level:  
Loran C Position: 
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Notes: 
November 26, 1964

583 feet
< 200 feet (stern section)

19,150 gross tons
Tanker
Steel
130 feet
140' section of the stern remains intact
18 Miles SE Manasquan Inlet NJ
Advanced
26787.6 - 43484.3

Bow section was salvaged

While most of the divers who visit the Stolt do not venture inside, penetration is possible and many interesting artifacts have been recovered. However, divers who penetrate inside must be wary of the depths. While the sand outside lies in 130 feet of water, it is possible to reach 140 feet inside the wreck. As with all wreck diving, penetration into any wreck requires special training and equipment and should not be attempted unless the diver is properly trained and equipped. 

The Stolt Dagali is New York/New jersey wreck diving at its best. With great visibility, interesting marine life, varying depths and beautifully intact wreckage, the Stolt will be a popular dive destination for years to come.

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Last Modified: November 30, 2006

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