Underwater New York Offers Found Objects From NYC Waterways to Spark Imagination and Art

Posted On Tue, July 26, 2016 By

Posted On Tue, July 26, 2016 By In Art, infographic

The collectors of curious things at Atlas Obscura bring us the work of Underwater New York, a fascinating catalogue of all the weird stuff that’s been found bobbing, sinking or washed-up from the murky depths of the city’s waterways, from a giraffe skeleton to a grand piano, with a bag of lottery tickets thrown in for good measure. In a fascinating study in what-is-it-and-where-is-it-coming from, founder Nicki Pombier Berger and the site’s editors and contributors (artists, filmmakers, musicians, photographers and other storytellers) create contexts for the curiosities that find their way to this aquatic lost and found.

New York City waterways, like the swampy southern Brooklyn beach known as Dead Horse Bay, and their submerged treasures are the inspiration for works in this digital gallery of sorts. Berger and fellow editors Helen Georgas and Nicole Haroutunian compile a growing list (it currently contains 150 objects) of waterfront finds that they’ve discovered via everything from news articles to anecdotes. Contributors are encouraged to use the objects to weave their stories in whatever medium they choose.

Underwater New York, Atlas Obscura, Quester I, Submarine, Coney Island Bay, Arthur Kill, Underwater Finds, Frying Pan, Nicki Pombier Berger
Graphic by Michelle Enemark; Courtesy of Atlas Obscura and Underwater New York.

Underwater New York was born when Berger saw an article in New York magazine in May 2009 showing 28 fascinating items that had been found beneath New York Harbor, including the aforementioned piano and giraffe (which reportedly either fell into the harbor during a transfer on the way to a zoo, or had escaped the circus). The site was officially launched aboard the also-fascinating lightship Frying Pan, the infamous once-sunken ship-turned party-boat on the Hudson. Part catalogue, part artists’ and writers’ collaborative workshop, Underwater New York encourages artists to base work on what’s found in the city’s fickle tides. The editors have since collaborated on larger projects with museums and magazines and led excursions to secluded waterfronts.

Underwater New York, Atlas Obscura, Quester I, Submarine, Coney Island Bay, Arthur Kill, Underwater Finds, Frying Pan, Nicki Pombier Berger
Items on the formerly-submerged lightship Frying Pan; image: Christopher Titzer via flickr cc.

Staten Island, Ship Graveyard, Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard
The Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard.

A sampling of the items listed includes a tugboat graveyard–and, unrelated, 1,600 bars of silver–from Arthur Kill off Staten Island, a fleet of ice cream trucks submerged in the Rockaways to lure schools of fish and a freight train which barrelled into the river after failing to stop at the Peekskill drawbridge in 1865.

Another fascinating find is a homemade submarine that floats rusting in Coney Island Creek (see top image); the 45-foot chromium yellow-painted submarine Quester I was built in 1967 by shipyard worker Jerry Bianco, who hoped to join an effort to help raise the ocean liner Andrea Doria which sunk in the Atlantic after colliding with another ship in 1956, reportedly with valuable artifacts aboard. When the sub, made of scrap metal, was lifted into the water by crane, it tipped sideways and got stuck in the mud. Bianco wasn’t able to raise the vessel, which is still visible above the Coney Island Creek’s waves, bright yellow cap and all.

Underwater New York, Atlas Obscura, Quester I, Submarine, Coney Island Bay, Arthur Kill, Underwater Finds, Frying Pan, Nicki Pombier Berger
Founder/editors of Underwater New York, Nicole Haroutunian, Helen Georgas and Nicki Pombier Berger; image: Underwater New York

The project’s editors welcome submissions of stories (written, illustrated, photographed or otherwise created) based on their list of found objects.

[Via Atlas Obscura]

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Lead image: Quester I submarine submerged in Coney Island Creek; image: Laser Burners via flickr cc.

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