Tyler Stalter and I are very confident (99+%) that we have identified the origins and name of the un-identified wreck site that I dove back in July 2020 with Ray Arntz & Kyaa Heller on the Sundiver.
We believe that it is the fishing vessel Nightingale that sank on Sept 9, 1930. The identification is based on (1) the location, (2) the type of ship, (3) the length, (4) the cause of sinking (fire), and (5) artifacts from the site
It is important to note that the Nightingale was built sometime prior to 1915 which means that the ship itself is over 105 years old and, we believe, one of the oldest ships that sank and have been positively identified in Southern California.
At the time, I think Ray had only put a couple other divers on the spot and I believe it was relatively unknown and the ship had not been identified. I concluded that post with the thought that it might be nice to go back at some point and try to identify the wreck.
After diving the F4D Skyray, we decided to drop back in on the unknown wreck to see if we could gather enough clues to identify it.
On my first dive back in July 2020, the visibility had been pretty bad and I spent most of the time just taking photos of the engine and didn’t explore other areas. This time, when we dropped in on the wreck, we had better visibility. As we started to look around, we were able to gather a few other key clues:
- Tyler found a piece of wood that had been charred — indicating that the wreck had likely been the result of a fire.
- We were also able to locate the anchor and the propeller so we could get an approximate length of the boat.
- We were also able to identify some structures which looked like the fish holds we have seen on other fishing vessels like the New Saturnia and the Vashon and various other pieces of equipment used for fishing
We now had a set of four key parameters: geographic location (Palos Verdes area), approximate length (40-50′), vessel type was a fishing boat, and it had likely burned.
On his drive home, Tyler quickly started searching for possible shipwrecks that met those criteria and came up with a good potential: The Nightingale.
Researching the Nightingale
That night and for the next few days, Tyler and I went on an all-out effort to get more information about the Nightingale.
It started with a few newspaper articles about the sinking of the ship.
The articles mention the location of the sinking, which matches where the wreck sits today.
It also mentions that the ship burned as the result of a backfire explosion and was burned to the waterline. The articles also mention that Nick Felando was on board so we knew we need to research more into that.
Tyler then found an article “Development of Motor-driven Vessels in Southern California” from January 1916 and found a reference to Nightingale being built by “Fulton & Woodley” shipbuilders in Terminal Island in the Los Angeles Harbor:
In trying to date the Nightingale, note that the article says that the ship was built “while Mr. Woodley was alive” and during the time of the “Fulton & Woodley” shipbuilding company. The pictures below are circa 1915:
Our best estimate (also based on the article below about Dick McCarrron) is that the Nightingale was built sometime circa 1914-1915.
Note that the article mentions that it is 42 feet long and is a fishing vessel. However, the owners in the initial article are listed as “McCarren & O’Neil” and not “Felando.”
We started researching the original owners and kept running into dead ends. I then started searching for “Nightingale” in the local San Pedro newspaper archives (The News Pilot) and ran across an article from 27 Sept 1915 that mentions “McCarron” (note the difference in spelling) and the Nightingale.
So, we know the boat was built in the Los Angeles harbor by Fulton & Woodley and that the original owner, Richard McCarron died in September 1915. I believe at that point it was probably acquired by the Felando family. As a side note, Dick McCarron was quite the character and got involved in all kinds of trouble back in the early 1900s, including smuggling people illegally.
There are some challenges with researching old wrecks. One is that there are a lot of wrecks that are named the same or named after famous people and places. In this case, there is obviously Florence Nightingale, the nightingale bird, and there was also a Navy ship called the Nightingale. The other challenge is that sometimes spelling mistakes are made, especially in very old newspaper articles. I found some articles that spelled the ship name as “Nightengale” and, as is the case here, the name McCarren vs McCarron.
As we researched the Felando family, we found a reference note that referred to the Nightingale. The paper was co-authored by August Felando. Part of the reference note is included below:
“For unknown reasons, my grandfather and his three sons, Joseph, George, and Tony, moved to San Pedro. My father, August, his mother, and two sisters came to San Pedro in November 1906, when he was seven years old. During 1907, my grandfather acquired a gasoline-powered fishing vessel and named it the Oceana, because this was the name of the ship that brought him to America. He later acquired two other vessels for operation by his sons George and Tony, the Annie, named after my paternal grandmother, and the Nightingale.”
The article mentioned that Nick Felando was on-board and badly burned during the accident so we did some research about him.
Nicholas Gerald Felando was born on April 25, 1909 and his father, Augustine Felando was the “patriarch” of the Felando family and had moved to San Pedro in the early 1900s. Nick would have been 21 years old when the accident happened on Sept 9, 1930.
The Felando family still lives in San Pedro and was a part of the fishing community for many years. They also owned a few businesses in San Pedro with the Marinkovich family which owned the fishing vessel Vashon which sunk on the backside of Catalina.
During our research, we found the Seaman’s Application for Nick Felando when he was 19 years old:
Nick lived a long life after his near-death escape from the boat fire and died on November 29, 1998 at the age of 89 years old.
Now that we had a viable identification, we returned to the site to gather additional clues and evidence to positively confirm the identity.
We wanted to obtain an accurate measurement to judge the length of the wreck. Obviously, when a ship burns to the waterline and sinks 145 feet, it falls apart and is distributed so getting an accurate length measurement can be challenging. We had located the prop on an earlier dive and the drive shaft was still completely intact all the way to the rear of the engine.
After laying a line and measuring the distance to the knot at the joining to the engine, that distance is 27.5 feet. Given the type of boat, and the placement of the engine, it would be appropriate for a boat the size of the Nightingale (42 feet).
Tyler had initially found some burned wood which was a clue. During one of our follow-up dives, Tayler from Sundiver collected a couple samples for review. You can clearly see in the pictures below that the wood has been burned:
In addition to finding the wood, Tayler also found a small bottle which was an old A1 Steak Sauce bottle. Based on research, this style of bottle was made in the 1930s era which is exactly when the Nightingale sank. (NB: The bottle and the wood were returned to the wreck site on the second dive).
I’ve included photos of a few of the clues which allowed us to identify the ship, along with photos of that great engine.
Photos below are of the clues that led us to the identification of the wreck:
A big “thanks” to Ray Arntz, Kyaa Heller, and Tayler at Sundiver. Without Ray, I would have never been on the wreck to begin with. As far as I know, Ray was the first person to locate the wreck site.
I wrote the article, but Tyler Stalter had an equal weight in identifying the wreck. He made the initial identification and we worked as a team on the detective work required to verify the identity.
Tayler from Sundiver was instrumental in finding and retrieving the wood samples along with the A1 Sauce bottle.
I also had other dive buddies on this wreck including Ben Lair on the initial dive and Justin Judd on a follow-up dive.
Development of Motor-driven Vessels in Southern California in “Motorship: Volumes 1-2”
The Origins of California’s High-Seas Tuna Fleet by August Felando and Harold Medina