Archaeology of the City of Washington
While the City of Washington wreck is concentrated, various hull remains are scattered over a wide area. Major sections of hull plating with attached I-beam frames can be seen in the midships area on the port and starboard sites. Other smaller hull sections are more widely dispersed. Several hull plates have portholes. The debris field is contained in a radius of about 140 feet from the main axis of the ship. Other scattered features such as bollards, a chock, ring gears, deck rail assembly, propeller shaft log and bilge pump have been identified within the site area. Other components may lie buried in the sand bottom.
Time has reduced the City of Washington's hull to perhaps one-fifth of its former height. Whereas it originally attained a hull depth of 19 feet 2 inches, only about 3 feet of hull can now be measured amidships. Originally she had three decks and six watertight bulkheads. Now only the fragmentary lowest deck can be seen. The bow is the least intact hull section, with the cutwater area completely absent.
The City of Washington wreck site is approximately 325 feet long, and contains mostly the lower bilge-section of the steel hull. While the engine, boilers, drive shaft and propeller are missing, the propulsion system's imprint can still be visualized. The engine mount plate in still affixed to the keelson, and four of the five pillow blocks are in place. The center one has been torn loose and sits just outside the starboard, stern end of the hull. The City of Washington's engine was situated on a rectangular plate measuring five feet by six feet. The bearing blocks and drive train were protected by an upright frame of curved metal, the remnants of which can still be seen on mount #3. These shaft pillow blocks are spaced at an average of 16 feet apart.
The City of Washington's hull structure can be followed for most of its contour, although several large gaps are present. The bow section, however, is badly damaged. On the port bow, large hull plates and supporting frames are twisted inward toward the keel. This is probably evidence of the force of the impact with the reef, and consistent with reports of her rapid demise.
The ship's massive iron knees form an impressive display. They connected the first deck to the upright and bottom hull plates. They are generally present and in good condition. The shape and configuration of the hull can be projected from them, even though the hull plates are detached.
Other Significant Features
Half Gear-- located in the port bow area, this feature was probably used to lift cargo into the vessel as part of a windlass assembly. It measures 3.0 feet in diameter and has an outer ring of teeth.
Bow Mast Segment-- located in the mid-bow area, this feature may be a remnant of the ship's rigging. It is an iron cylinder measuring 4.5 feet in length and 1.5 feet in diameter.
Port Side Chock -- a massive iron chock is visible near the port hull in the sand. It was used to secure lines to the vessel. It measures 3.0 feet in length, 1.5 feet in height and has an opening for 6 inch diameter lines.
Starboard Ladder -- this ladder has been set into its current position by divers.
Bilge Pump Assembly -- this feature is in exceptional condition and located on the port side hull in the stern. It consists of a 9 foot length of leaded pipe, a direct piston pump mechanism and a some 6 feet of 4 inch stud link chain that held it in place.
Propeller Shaft Log -- Located in about its rightful position, the ship's propeller shaft log has been documented. Its function was to allow the drive shaft to pass through the hull to the propeller. From it, of course, one can determine the diameter of the drive shaft at this location. The log has a 1.0 foot inside diameter and measures 2.0 feet on the outside. A brass hex bolt, which formerly locked it in place, can be seen.
Other features of note include hull plate sections with portholes, a top rail with deck rigging holes, the stern rail assembly, and a disarticulated bollard in the stern area.