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Sometimes the most heavily trafficked waterways are the least known to landfolk. Consider Newtown Creek in 2007. Tis true also of this waterway between New York and New Jersey, Kill Van Kull aka KVK. When I first moved here a half decade ago, I thought to kayak here, a plan I quickly discarded after seeing how heavily it’s trafficked. Until I found this article on Staten Island name origins, I wondered who the Van Kull is; check out “Arthur Kill” as well as “Het Kill van het Cull.” As a Dutch speaker and linguist, I find this Anglicization explanation finally satisfactory.

The tug below enters the west end of KVK about a mile on the Bayonne side of the Goethals Bridge; astern is visible the waterfront of Elizabeth, NJ. Just to the right of of the twin steeples of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the shadowy tower of the Union County Courthouse; off the bow is the Singer plant that I blogged about a few days ago.
If Stapleton Service were to turn to port, it would enter Newark Bay, the busiest portion of the port of greater New York.


Of course, Newark Bay, which handles all this traffic, can only do so because of its shoreside transportation links–rail and road–as well as major dredging, which doesn’t even keep up with the increasing vessel size, or more accurately, depth. Check this link (scroll all the way through) for a Maersk container ship with three times the cargo capacity of the Maersk vessel above, three times, 300%!!

Notice this shovel barge is “spudded” in place; the spud is the pillar or foot just in front of the bucket of the crane. But dredging means mixing what has lain inert in the mud with estuary flow, and what has lain in the mud might be nasty.


Given the traffic, KVK is home base for at least 100 tugs, according to an August 2005 article by Wendell Jamieson in the Times. Moran is one of the bigger fleets.


Here a fearless helmsman “stays the course” and checks room to starboard while a huge bulk carrier, flanked by a Moran tug, passes to port.

The east end of KVK is marked by Robbins Reef Light, shown below.


So ends the KVK at its east end, but it’s all sixth borough, and the sixth borough . . . well, it connects to all the watery parts of the globe.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Who is the sailor standing watch (or taking a break) on the bow as Harrier slips eastward on Kill van Kull and heads outbound? Nationality? Age? History? He’s barely visible way up there, one foot on the rail? Almost a figurehead.
Harrier lists Majuro as port of registry. Quiz your friends about its location after you see the picture and find the answer below.

Majuro, it’s the metropolis of the Marshall Islands. Actually a place I would like to visit some day, population much smaller than that of Staten Island. Not too far from Rarotonga. Think it’s one of the few ships from there? Majuro also appears on the stern of this “panamax” you’ve seen in an earlier post.

How about Limassol?


Jag Prachi actually lists all of India as its port. I know there are reasons for flags of convenience, but it does make things confusing. Some say there are security risks involved also.

Two years ago I saw a container ship loading in Red Hook. It was a day I had left my camera home. I was very excited to see a vessel loading there called Umiavut. What was exciting was what was below the lettering in English. See it here. I recognized the script from lettering I was then doing on a kayak I had just built. It’s the script for Inuktitut, language of Nunavut. In Brooklyn! Flag of convenience? Would you believe the Netherlands. Go figure.

And that sailor on the bow of Harrier, what do you suppose he’s doing on Christmas Day if December 25 means anything to him? Here’s a thought.

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Graves of Arthur Kill

Click on image below to order your copy of Graves of Arthur Kill, by Gary Kane and Will Van Dorp. 3Fish Productions.

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September 2021