A 47-foot-long horseshoe crab replica is now sunk at an artificial reef off the coast of Mantoloking, but not as planned.
After Point Borough sculptor Chris Wojcik invested more than a year of time building and readying a concrete crab replica for its place at the Axel Carlson reef, it was finally sunk today.
But the sinking turned out to be far more dramatic than anyone expected or wanted.
Two hours were spent methodically preparing for the sinking, with the crew of the ocean crane Columbia New York filling the twin, 50-foot barges that support the structure with water, then strapping it to a crane to ensure the crab, which is welded to the barges, remained upright when it reached the ocean floor.
But just before noon, the strap supporting the tail end of the barges snapped, and as Wojcik and dozens of others watched, the entire thing slipped into the water, which is 80 feet deep there, and disappeared.
A gasp went up from Wojcik's family and supporters, who were watching aboard Capt. Bob Pennington's Sea Devil as the crab slipped tail first toward the bottom.
Whether the result is disastrous is uncertain because of the angle at which it dropped. Wojcik remained at the reef with the crane company, which was sending in divers to check the status of the crab.
It's expected the giant crab will still function to enrich the existing artificial reef that serves as a marine life habitat. But it may not function as intended if its position in the water is not upright.
The crab was supposed to have been placed at the Axel Carlson reef – located about 2.5 miles off Mantoloking – July 25.
The crab was towed through Manasquan Inlet early Thursday morning.
The GPS coordinates for the target location for the deployment on the reef are:
73 59.300' 40 01.700'
The state Division of Fish and Wildlife's Bureau of Marine Fisheries oversees the state's artificial reef system.
Click on this story to see PDF attachments of a map of the Axel Carlson site and a map of the state's entire artificial reef network, from the Division of Fish and Wildlife's artificial reef program website.
For more on Wojcik, who lives on Howe Street in Point Pleasant Borough, and his creation, as well as the artificial reef program in New Jersey, published earlier this month on Patch.
Patch will update the story as it develops.