What is under water in New York City’s Harbors?

I first read about this story on the News of the Weird.

My blog received so many hits on this, I went back to the original story in New York Magazine to add more details. As a New Yorker, I find this story especially interesting:

This picture of what’s down below in the city’s harbors comes from the team at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who have methodically swept the lower Hudson with state-of-the-art sonar. Here are some of the highlights:

 The LDEO researchers know of at least 300 wrecks in the lower Hudson below Troy, but they won’t tell you where most of them are. “They’re archaeological sites,” says William Ryan, one of the group’s senior scientists, and the state (which funds his research) has concerns about amateur treasure-hunters who can’t handle the currents. One notable wreck, which Ryan will place only “near Yonkers,” includes not one ship but two: A cabin cruiser sits atop the flattened remains of a much older vessel, probably a nineteenth-century sailing ship.

A 350-foot steamship. The Princess Anne, a steamship of the Old Dominion line, ran aground off Rockaway Point in February 1920, snapped in half, and sank. Since then, enough sand has shifted that the ship’s remains are mostly buried under the beach.

A freight train (derailed in 1865).

1,600 bars of silver (unrecovered since 1903).

4-foot-long worms that eat wooden docks and tiny “gribbles” that eat concrete pilings.

A 10,500-Mile Gas Main – That groove on the riverbed is a pair of 24-inch gas mains, laid down in the fifties, that constitutes the business end of a network of pipes that runs all the way from the Gulf of Mexico.

Dead Bodies – When homicides and suicides end up in the river during winter, they often stay underwater until April, when decomposition speeds up, bloating them with gases. They then bob up, and currents have been known to drive them to nooks near the Seaport and Manhattan Bridge.

Stripped Cars – In the bad old high-crime days, a virtual fleet of auto carcasses ended up in the East River, near the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Most were carted away during a cleanup in the eighties, but a number are still down there.

In the East River, at about 16th Street, there’s one of those old dining-room tables, the kind with a Formica top and the grooved metal bands around the edge. It’s standing upright, totally free and clear.

Ice-cream Trucks – Reefs, because they are good places for edible plants and small animals, attract schools of fish. In 1969, in order to build a new artificial reef, the Department of Environmental Conservation dumped a bargeload of scrapped Good Humor trucks off Atlantic Beach.

There are millions of hard-shell clams on the harbor bottom, but pollutants and bacteria can make the shellfish dangerous to eat, especially raw. Some are okay for “relay,” a process whereby tainted shellfish are moved to a clean spot for a few weeks so they purge themselves and can be safely consumed. Most high-end suppliers and restaurants shy away from such clams, but because they’re much cheaper, some establishments inconspicuously serve them.

As the water has become cleaner, the shad runs have slowly returned to the Hudson. Striped bass are increasing in number, though their flesh contains PCB contaminants, and eating them regularly isn’t a good idea. A herring called the mossbunker swims in huge schools, and is caught by the ton, ground up, and fed to farmed salmon.

Dreamland – One of Coney Island’s great early theme parks, Dreamland existed for only a few years before it burned down in 1911. Nothing survives of it aboveground, but a group called Cultural Research Divers found the lampposts underwater, melted and deformed from the fire.

Read the full story: http://nymag.com/news/features/56609/index1.html


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