By CAROL COMEGNO
Diver Leonard Maiocco of Deptford slipped into the chilly Delaware River alongside the battleship New Jersey on the Camden Waterfront Friday.
Protected by a black dry suit and helmet, he dived in 43-degree water to a depth of almost 40 feet underneath the ship and laid a cable that could easily have been mistaken from a distance as a long fuse for explosives.
But he was only trying to preserve the ship.
Maiocco was doing work for a diving company hired to install the first parts of an anti-rust system that will protect the ship's steel hull from corrosion. The historic ship - one of the Navy's most decorated warships and a veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars - opened in October as a floating museum.
Williams Transco Pipeline of Tulsa, Okla., is donating the $50,000 worth of equipment being installed during the next several weeks.
Williams uses cathodic systems, like the one to be installed here, to protect thousands of miles of its underground gas pipeline in New Jersey and 12 other states.
The company designed this electrified system for the New Jersey.
"The battleship New Jersey is a national treasure that needs to be protected for generations to come," said Gary Lauderdale, senior vice president and general manager of Williams. "We're excited we can apply this proven technology to protect the New Jersey."
Maiocco carried down with him the first of several cables containing metal piping with a titanium core and buried it in the mud of the river underneath the ship's keel.
When all of the cables are installed, they will be attached to power source boxes that will generate an electrical current. That current will create a protective electrical field around the 887-foot-long hull to prevent rusting, said Williams pipeline integrity manager Collin Wisser.
When the diver surfaced after 40 minutes, he swam back to the skiff on the port side of the boat.
"It's very cold and dark down there with poor visibility," said Maiocco. "You have to make sure you hang on to the hogging line that we strung to get you under the ship because the river current is so strong."
The diver works for Sieber's Ocean Ventures of Williamstown, the contractor hired by Williams.