Long before the Queen Mary and even before the beautiful swift sisters, Lusitania and Mauritania, was the fast and opulent liner called Oregon. In the 1880's, the Oregon was the fastest transatlantic vessel in the world and holder of the Blue Riband ( or Hales Trophy) while initially running under the Guion Line flag. The Oregon succeeded in capturing the westbound record from Queenstown to Sandy Hook in six days, ten hours and ten minutes ending on April 19th, 1884. She would later grab the eastbound record as well to have the fastest recorded times both ways across the Atlantic Ocean. The leading British shipping company, the Cunard Line, saw the potential in having a fleet of beautiful and fast ships. Five months after the Oregon's record-breaking performance, the Cunard Line acquired her from the Guion Line in August 1884. The pairing of Oregon with their other fast liners, Etruria and Umbria, the Cunard Line had the world's three fastest transatlantic vessels in their fleet. Oregon broke her records well into 1885 until her running mate, the Etruria, took the record away from her.
At the peak of her popularity, the greyhound Oregon collided with and was sunk by a schooner named Charles H. Morse on the morning of March 14th, 1886, off of Fire Island-Long Island, New York. The Oregon stayed afloat long enough to have all of her passengers saved by nearby boats (with most passengers saved by the Fulda) that ply this heavily traveled waterway just outside of New York harbor. This tragic accident stunned the transatlantic shipping community, as the Oregon was a long favorite of the many European and American passengers. She sank in approximately 140 feet of water about 35 miles from Captree State Park. This wreck site is my favorite inshore wreck site in the entire New York Bight area.
The first time that I dove the Oregon was in the early 1980's with the dive boat Wahoo operating out of Captree and captained by Steve Bielenda. I was amazed by its immense size and mesmerized by all the history that was still surrounding this vessel. Many personal and ship-related items were scattered all across this ship and an occasional porthole or piece of china were discovered. I continued visiting the Oregon several times a year for the next twenty years and she has aged gracefully. On several occasions over the past two summers, I have visited this once-proud liner using the Eagle's Nest dive boat with an old friend of mine, Captain Howard Klein, using a closed-circuit rebreather. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, I used to be Howard's deep-diving mate on board his wonderfully maintained dive boat and was very comfortable in using his dive boat for exploring this liner with a rebreather. Because of its relatively shallow depth (if you can call 140 feet relatively shallow), I had a long bottom time and a fairly long decompression. The nice thing about the rebreather is that it optimizes your breathing mixture based upon pre-set limits of oxygen partial pressure. Using this additional time on the wreck site gives much more opportunities to explore the wreck site without having to be too concerned about running out of gas. After shackling into the high section of the engine, the remainder of the wreck can be explored by looking forward beyond the huge boilers or aft in various collapsed hull plating that hide a vast array of ship items or huge lobsters.
One of the best ocean liner books and the definitive source of information on the steamer Oregon is a book by Herb "Cap" Kaasmann called Oregon Greyhound of the Atlantic . Mr Kaasmann has written the complete story of this beautiful liner from its inception to the many diving expeditions to visit her historic watery remains. The book was published in 1993 in soft cover and quickly went out of print. I have had the pleasure of chatting with "Cap" a couple of times this year and he has confided to me that he has copies remaining of his book that can be ordered directly through him at his email address of email@example.com . This book is an absolutely MUST HAVE for any person interested in ocean liners, shipwrecks and diving. For me, the fascinating history of this ocean liner and the advent of the generation of huge super-ocean liners like Titanic, Lusitania, Mauritania and Olympic makes this book a real treasure to have in your collection!