State ID: 18CH506
Vessel Type: Merchant vessel (steamship)
Location: 38°28'15.44"N, 77°16'11.85"W (38.47095, -77.26996) (Duke University, 2016)
Length: 281 feet 10 inches
Breadth: 45 feet 2 inches
Deadweight Tonnage: 3,500
Builder: Johnson Shipyard Company, New York, New York
Owner: Titled to the State of Maryland under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act
Flora & Fauna: None
Significance: Considered one of the most intact remaining vessels built for the United States Shipping Board for the World War I effort located in Mallows Bay, Maryland. The remains of one of Aowa's sister ships, Charles W. Baird, is also located within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The vessel remains are oriented east to west, with the bow facing the shore. Aowa measures approximately 259 feet 6 inches long and 46 feet 6 inches wide (beam), without a rudder post evident. Evidence of ferrous strapping and fastenings are present along with the engine platforms and coal bunker foundations. The propeller shaft tunnel is well preserved with at least five shaft casing mounts still in place. Four bulkheads are present and easily discernible. This site is considered to be among the best preserved wooden steamship wrecks in the sanctuary, but due to its position on the outer tier of hulks, exposed to frequently turbulent water conditions, and submersion during high tide, it is one of the most difficult to access.
Aowa was completed in 1918 by the Johnson Shipyard Company, of New York, New York, for the United States Shipping Board. Aowa was a Ferris-type built wooden vessel, with a single screw. With the increase of shipbuilding activity across the country, the shipyards on Staten Island, including the Johnson Shipyard Company, needed to bring a larger labor force to build the contracted vessels. This necessitated increased ferryboats to bring in the laborers from Manhattan and Brooklyn. There was also a push to increase the number of homes on Staten Island to accommodate the influx of workers. Close to 16,000 workers were anticipated to work in these shipyards, and reflected in this increase in work. In 1918, Johnson Shipyard Company was contracted to produce six wooden ships, which included the vessel Aowa.
Launched on July 16, 1918, Aowa was christened by fifteen year old Miss Helen Magruder, the daughter of William Magruder, the President of the company. Miss Helen Magruder officially named the vessel Aowa. The vessel was scheduled to be part of the celebrated "Tidal Wave" of national ships launching on July 4, 1918, but was delayed due to labor and material shortages at the yard. Aowa did not take part in any war time service and ultimately was brought to Mallows Bay, Maryland, and has been in its present location since at least 1929.