Some bizarre things have been intentionally sunk off New Jersey’s coastline to make artificial reefs for fish — and scuba divers — to explore.
There was Elizabeth, a 1901 steamboat that also served as a floating Hooters restaurant on the Philadelphia waterfront, which was added to a reef site nine miles off Cape May in 2005.
There were stainless steel New York City Transit Authority subway cars being scuttled off southern New Jersey’s coastline until it was discovered they were unexpectedly collapsing underwater.
Now, the latest reef coming to New Jersey’s coast may be among the oddest — and a potential Guinness World Record holder.
Ocean floor meet your latest addition, a 47-foot-long, 25,000-pound concrete sculpture of a horseshoe crab. And this crab was privately funded.
The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife announced the man-made behemoth will be deployed Wednesday on the Axel Carlson Reef off Monmouth County.
The state’s Artificial Reefs Program has a network of 15 artificial reefs to attract fish and shellfish, as well as saltwater anglers and divers.
“For marine critters to gravitate around and under, artificial reefs are critical,” said Randy Moore, a Galloway Township resident and scuba instructor who has been diving for 30 years.
“There are a lot of wrecks out there and the artificial reefs really give it a boost, and they’re well documented,” he said.
One of the more popular recent artificial reefs is the 563-foot-long Navy warship the U.S.S. Arthur Radford, located about 30 miles southeast of Cape May, he said.
Dropping the gigantic horseshoe crab in 80 feet of water will become the latest in a motley assortment of reefs. It is also destined to be a record holder for the world’s largest underwater sculpture, the DEP says.
The underwater artwork was created by Christopher Wojcik, a 44-year-old from Point Pleasant, who is a scuba instructor, a marine biologist, and a builder of exhibits for zoos and aquariums.
Wojcik said funding for the artwork came from himself, family and friends, as well as from private donors. He expects the total cost to come to about $96,000, he said.
The oversized arthropod took him and a crew — including Mark Giampietro and Matthew Lees, both of Point Pleasant — six weeks of 12-hour days to build.
“The horseshoe crab is such an icon of our coast, I thought it would be a good thing to portray,” Wojcik said. “One of the main reasons I chose that shape is it’s a good representative of an unchanging ocean, or possibly one that’s changing too much.”
Laying layer after layer of concrete across the wire base was a little like spackling a room, he said.
For a model, the artists used a real horseshoe crab and depicted its features to scale, even the distance between the eyes. One inch on a horseshoe crab is more than 4.445 feet on the reef, he said.
“It was much more of a math project than an art project,” Wojcik said.
Contact Brian Ianieri: