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Today the sixth boro and environs face Henri, whose story is yet to be told.  August 26, 2011 . . . I was at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and these Hurricane Irene signs were up.  When Irene’s story was told, it had done unusual damage upstate far from salt water;  here’s more.  Some repairs took until 2016 to complete.  From here I took the ferry to Whitehall in Manhattan, and then over I walked to South Street Seaport, where I wanted to see storm preparations.  See the story at the end of this post.  

In late August 2011, I was documenting a slow decomposition, getting footage of what became a documentary film called Graves of Arthur Kill. Gary Kane was the producer;  I was the director, or something.  If you’ve not yet seen the documentary, you can order it by clicking on the disintegrating wooden tugboat image along the left aside of this blog page.  Some of the vessels in this post are discussed by multiple sources in the documentary.  Keep in mind that these photos and the footage in the doc recorded these scenes a decade ago, almost to the day.  Hurricanes, freezing and thawing, and just plain daily oxidation have ravaged these already decrepit vessels for another 10 years, so if you were to go to these exact locations, not an easy feat, you’d see a devolution.

I’m not going to re-identify all these boats–already done elsewhere and in the doc–except to say we saw a variety of boats like this tanker above and the WW2 submarine chaser alongside it.

Other WW2 vessels repurposed for post-war civilian purposes are there.  More were there but had been scrapped prior to 2011.

See the rust sprouting out from behind WW2 haze gray.

In the past decade, the steam stack on this coastal ferry has collapsed, and the top deck of the ferry to the right has squatted into the ooze below.

Some steel-hulled steam tugboats we never managed to identify much more than maybe attributing a name;  they’d been here so long that no one remained alive who worked on them or wanted to talk about them.

We used a rowboat and had permission to film there, but the amount of decomposing metal and wood in the water made it nearly impossible to safely move through here. We never got out of the boat to climb onto any of these wrecks.  That would be if not Russian roulette then possibly some other form of tempting fate.

Most emblematic of the boats there might be this boat, USS ATR-89, with its struggling, try-to-get-back-afloat stance.  She was built in Manitowoc, WI, a town I’ve since frequently visited.

Wooden hulls, wooden superstructure . . .  I’m surprised they’ve lasted as long as they have.

Since taking this photo in August 2011, I’ve learned a lot about this boat and its four sisters, one of whom is now called Day Peckinpaugh

I’ve spent a lot of hours this month pulling together info on Day Peckinpaugh, launched as Interwaterways Line 101;  the sister vessel above and below was launched in July 1921 in Duluth as Interwaterways Line 105. The ghost writing in the photo below says Michigan, the name she carried during the years she ran bulk caustic soda between the Michigan Alkali plant in Wyandotte MI and Jersey City NJ via the Erie Canal.  Anyone local have photos of this vessel in the sixth boro or the Hudson River?  I have a photo of her taken in 1947 transiting a lock in the NYS Canal system, but I’ll hold off on posting that for a few weeks when the stories come out. What you’re looking at above and below is the remnants of a vessel currently one century and one month old. 

The Interwaterways Line boats were designed by Capt. Alexander McDougall, who also designed the whalebacks of the Great Lakes, like Meteor. Here‘s a whole blog devoted to McDougall’s whalebacks.

This ferry used to run between Newburgh and Beacon;  on this day in August 2011, we just rowed our boat onto the auto deck.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned Hurricane Irene and going over to South Street Seaport Museum.  Two of these vessels here have seen a lot of TLC$ in the past decade. That’s a good ending for now.  Helen, with the McAllister stack, is still afloat and waiting.

All photos in August 2011, WVD.

A final sentiment on Graves of Arthur Kill . . . Gary Kane and I set out to document what was actually in this much-discussed boneyard;  we wanted to name and show what existed, acknowledge what had existed but was already gone, and dispel some of the legends of this place.  We were both very proud of the work and happy with this review in  Wired magazine.  If you still want to write a review, get in touch.  It would be like writing a series review of Gilligan’s Island, but still a worthy exercise.


Take 2 . . or 2b, and there’ll be more attempts to figure out the ghosts of the sixth boro.   Like others of you, I’m fascinated by these hints of a disappeared world.  Below, if I’ve understood correctly, lie the remnants of the ferry Astoria.  I wonder who worked on it  and how many thousands of folks rode it regularly either to work or play or  . . . do mischief.   For info on Astoria, which ran between Astoria in Queens to 92nd Street in Manhattan from the 1920s until the 1970s, read here.


Here is the ferry Major General William H. Hart aka SS Meow Man, so dubbed by a graffiti flinger.  General Hart worked at Brooklyn Army Depot after World War 1.  Like Astoria, she was built in the mid-1920s and ran until almost 1970, when it did a short stint at South Street Seaport.  See more info here.


Here’s another view of the tug I posted on previously.  In September 1944, Berger Boat in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, launched this vessel was as Navy rescue tug ATR-89,  After the war, it worked as Hila.  Now the metal deck and wooden hull turn back into raw materials.  Again, I see it and try to imagine crew:  who they were, where they came from and went to, and what they or their descendants would think if they saw it today.


I’ve heard this is a ferry that previously ran between Newburgh and Beacon. Anyone confirm this?


I’ve no idea what vessel this once was.  Anyone help?


Nor this, although this vessel lies 50+ miles upriver in Cornwall.  It seems to have evolved into a breakwater protecting the town marina.


In this closer-up shot, you can see the portside hawse.

aaaf5In Kill van Kull, this “retired” car ferry called Pvt Nicholas Minue is named for a World War II Medal of Honor winner.


Let me end this on a non-wreck.  Many of the vessels in this post once were ferries. Anyone know this ferry?  Those are the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges in the distance.


Here’s the same vessel seen in profile rather than stern on.  It’s Michael Cosgrove, a mini-ferry I’ve not seen before this year.  See the link here for more–not much–on Michael Cosgrove and the other Staten Island ferries.


All fotos by Will Van Dorp.

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