OCEAN CITY — An effort this morning to recover and salvage a Coast Guard beacon tower swept off the end of the Inlet’s north jetty during Hurricane Irene last September proved fruitless after divers could not locate the 20-foot tall, 11-ton structure in the surf.
It was unknown what became of the old Inlet jetty beacon after it was washed away during Hurricane Irene late last summer and its fate is less certain this week after an attempt to locate it and drag it from the ocean early Friday morning. About two weeks ago, a wedge-shaped portion of concrete was spotted in the water immediately north in the Inlet jetty believed to be part of the base of the old beacon.
The old beacon had an 8-foot by 8-foot concrete base measuring about two feet thick and the corner of concrete spotted emerging from the water at low tide was believed to be part of the structure. The plan was to have divers connect thick cables to the base and the beacon itself and pull the old structure out of the ocean with heavy duty tow trucks.
Everything was in place on Friday morning including divers, tow trucks, Coast Guard officials, town of Ocean City Public Works crews, fire department officials, police and Beach Patrol officials along with Maryland Coast Towing officials, who were contracted by the Coast Guard to conduct the salvage operation.
On Friday morning, divers entered the water the area immediately adjacent to the Inlet jetty for about an hour. The divers searched the spot where the wedge of concrete or rock and been seen and expanded the search over a much larger area in hopes of finding the massive tower. However, the search was called off and the operation was shut down after the search proved fruitless.
It is uncertain whether the object spotted in the area about two weeks ago was part of the old Inlet beacon or if it was just one of the many large rocks in the water near the jetty. At a combined weight of around 11 tons, the old structure likely didn’t travel far after being swept away in the storm, but it was not found in the area it was thought to be.
Following the search, salvage crews believed the beacon and its massive base had likely been silted over and buried after six months of being in the water and the thinking after Friday morning’s search is it might never be found.
However, divers said if it was indeed buried, it would likely stay buried and only go deeper into the sand with continued tidal action. It is also possible the old structure could be uncovered in the future if a major storm or hurricane washed away the sand that was likely covering it now.
Divers told the Coast Guard it might be prudent to do a fly-over in the area when the seas were calm and the water was clear in an effort to find the structure.