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Humans generally have some strange fascination with abandoned buildings or interesting scrap yards or historical lands that maybe once produced a monumental battle. I think it has a lot to do with our desire to learn, seek adventure or attempt to satisfy our insatiable curiosity with the unknown. Whatever the reason, we are drawn to the strange and mysterious. The Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard in Staten Island, New York is one of those places.
I first learned of the ship graveyard through my friend Krissy. We were planning to meet up in Manhattan and were thinking of things to do when she suggested tripping to Staten Island. I asked “why?” and she directed me by giving me the name “Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard.” I did a little research and obviously became interested based on the pure mystique of the area. At the time there were not many blogs or any official information on this location. So, we decided to go.
Krissy had her car in Manhattan so that was our means of transportation to the area. I’ve done a little digging and pooled at the depths of my memory to also tell you – car is the only realistic way to get there. The graveyard is very much out of the way and is in no way a tourist destination. Most locals in New York probably do not even know of its existence.
About the Graveyard:
The ships can be seen from the road. Between the dump site for waste which leads to the boats is a junk yard with a “Do Not Enter” and “Beware of Dog” sign. The junkyard is on the bank of the river-like body that travels around Staten Island, separating it from mainland New York. We entered the dump site by crossing through a cemetery and walking down to the “grassy” field. Most pictures online are of the graveyard with a fair amount of water encircling the ships. You would need a row-boat of some kind if these are the conditions during your visit. This will depend on the time of year you visit.
We visited in the winter. However, it was not especially cold during this time so rather than frozen ground or water we were met with an extremely muddy “field” leading closer to the ships. Without knee-high, strapped-in water-proof boots it was impossible to venture out to the ships in order to become up close and personal with them. We both attempted to traverse the mud but turned back pretty quickly when the mud started to ooze through the seams of our boots.
My recommendations are to photograph from afar with a powerful zoom lens unless you don’t mind pure filth. The “grassy” area is teeming with trash that looks borderline radioactive. In fact, one ship was actually near a nuclear test site before being scrapped in the graveyard.
The entire area is a dump site and originates from WWII. The nearby scrap-yard purchased the ships in order to strip them of metal and anything of value. Several deteriorated too quickly before they could be broken down and they were simply left there.
To Go or Not to Go?
Honestly, the place is rather unique and cool from an adventurer’s perspective. This is not the place for everyone. I liked stopping, snapping some shots with my friend and sharing some laughs while we soaked in the allure. Would I ever venture out there again even if better equipped? Probably not… the only added draw would be to get closer to the ships. But, they are dangerous to walk around or near. Rusting metal provides plenty of places to cut yourself or worse, collapse with you walking on them.
Enjoy it from afar and while it still lasts.
- Koerner, Brendan I. “The Secret NYC Graveyard Where Ships Go to Die.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 16 July 2014. Web. 02 May 2016.
Photography by: Philip Moreira Photography