The underwater objects, animals, and phenomena collected here are arranged in no particular order to encourage you to browse the list and make new discoveries each time you visit. These lively materials were found by divers, scientists, detectives, engineers, activists, artists, and citizens. Our list serves as a prompt for many of the stories we publish or produce, and we share it in the spirit of collaboration, inviting you to work with our waterways. If you know of an object that belongs on our list, let us know!
Giraffe, Lower New York Bay. When the Army Corps of Engineers dredged up this surprising haul, they guessed it was pitched off the side of a circus ship after it died. Or maybe it escaped the circus (go giraffe, go!), only to meet its fate in the Atlantic (stop giraffe, stop!).
Barnacle Bike, Hudson River. As reported by Gothamist, this barnacle-encrusted Citi Bike might have been in the Hudson for nearly six months before it was returned to a dock. Who? What? Why? How?
Dreamland, Coney Island. Dreamland was one of the earliest and grandest amusement parks in the world before it burned down on May 27, 1911. The Dreamland Pier, at W. 5th St. and Surf Avenue, was an elaborate creation that served as an extension of the decadent park. When the 1911 fire broke out, the pier collapsed and sunk into the water without a trace. In 1988, Bensonhurst resident and professional diver Gene Ritter discovered the pier in a single solo dive.
Dreamland Bell, Coney Island. Before subways connected Coney Island to Manhattan, ferries were one of the most popular ways to get there. The bell is believed to have sat at the end of the pier, announcing the ferries as they arrived and departed. Another find by Gene Ritter, of the amazing Cultural Research Divers.
A Bag of Lottery Tickets, Prospect Park. All it takes is a dollar and a dream…
Princess Anne Steamship, The Rockaways. Built in 1897 for the Old Dominion line, the ship ran aground in the Rockaway Shoals when the Captain missed the entrance to New York Harbor. Despite severe weather, the passengers were all taken to safety, but strangely, the crew refused to leave without their luggage, which could not fit in the life boat. They stayed onboard for nine days, until the ship split in half and the passengers had to be rescued.
Freight Train, Hudson River. In 1865, a train carrying passenger baggage plunged over the Peekskill drawbridge, which was open, and plummeted into the river. Two young stowaways survived.
Formica Dinette, East River. The table sits upright, as if waiting to be set, near 16th Street. We’d accept a hundred stories about this one.
Voodoo and Santeria Objects, Bronx River. The fact that we have no other information just makes these objects more evocative.
Quester 1 Submarine, Coney Island Creek. The submarine was built by Brooklyn resident Jerry Bianco in 1967 to dive the ill-fated Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket. Though the Quester never made it to Nantucket, the vessel is a beloved neighborhood site and a home for marine life and birds. See a photo here.
Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island. Steeplechase Park, like Dreamland before it, was one of the great amusement parks of Coney Island. The feature attraction was the Steeplechase Ride, a horse race which circled the Pavilion of Fun. A series of accidents, rivaling factions within the Tilyou family, who owned the park, and a rise in crime led to the park’s closure in 1964. As far as we know, this submerged pier is all that remains of the park.
1968 Lincoln Continental, Coney Island. The car was discovered belly-up in 1978, a few feet from the end of the old Steeplechase Pier.
Ice Cream Trucks, The Rockaways. Like the subway cars, a fleet of ice cream trucks were used to build an artificial reef to lure schools of fish. The vehicles that once delivered Good Humor ice cream bars are now home to black sea bass, porgy, bergall, hake and cod.
Two Shipwrecks On Top of Each Other, Hudson River. A cabin cruiser and a 19th century sailing ship get it on.
Mysterious White Goo, Gowanus Canal. Scientists are studying this goo—a mixture of bacteria, protozoans, and contaminants—for its medical potential, as it’s managed to thrive in one of the most polluted canals in the city.
Silicone Breasts, Coney Island. We don’t really know the story behind these, so make one up and send it to us.
Horse Bones / Animal Bones, Dead Horse Bay. Dead Horse Bay marks the site of what once was Barren Island, where for decades the city’s trash and daily animal dead were rendered into profitable byproducts. Today, the area that was once a marshland is now Floyd Bennett Field, bordered by Dead Horse Bay, where bits of trash from the past century continually wash ashore and provide fodder for collectors, explorers, writers, and artists. See a photo here.
Human Skull, Bronx River. In the 1980s, when Bronx River clean up efforts were in full swing, a member of a conservation crew for the Bronx River Restoration Project came across a human skull and reported it to the police. Is it an artifact of violence, neglect, or something else?
Tugboats, Arthur Kill. How does a city wind up with a graveyard of tugboats? You can pursue the real answer or invent your own.
Kangamouse, Dead Horse Bay. This toy appears to be a kangaroo-mouse hybrid. Although he is missing an ear, his little light-bulb heart is still intact.
Grand Piano, Lower New York Bay. We’d totally understand if you wanted to write about this one. You wouldn’t be alone.
Piano, Bronx River. The Grand Piano isn’t alone either–another piano was found in the Bronx River!
Bars of Silver, Arthur Kill. Arthur Kill, the harbor between Staten Island and New Jersey, is home to 1600 bars of silver, each weighing 100 pounds. How’d they get there? In 1903, a barge capsized, spilling its cargo. Some were recovered, but the rest are still down there and valued at about $26 million.
Whistle, South Beach. Ed Fanuzzi found this whistle in the waters off of Staten Island; he believes it once belonged to his uncle, a champion lifeguard. It was included in the Silent Beaches, Untold Stories exhibit at St. John's; you can see it here.
Giant Rubik's Cube, Hudson River. In honor of the puzzle's 40th birthday on July 11, 2014, a tugboat towed a huge, inflatable Rubik's Cube down the Hudson River. What memories does it trigger? Watch its trip here.
Silverware and Broken China, Dead Horse Bay. From the dinner table to the tides to the shore.
Subway Cars, Hudson River. The Garden State North Reef is constructed, in part, with 250 Redbird subway cars built in the 1960s—now home to starfish and white coral.
Surveillance Systems, New York Harbor. Just when we thought it was safe to go in the water, we found out about these: anti-swimmer sonar systems used by the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct periodic sweeps of the New York Harbor. You can swim, but you can’t hide!
Shinbone, New York Harbor, Staten Island. Listen to David’s story about a mysterious find on a Staten Island beach, and then invent your own.
Clara Bell Clown, Dead Horse Bay. We were delighted, and more than a bit freaked out, to be greeted by this guy as soon as we stepped onto the beach. See a photo here.
Gowanda the Harp Seal, Gowanus Canal. In 2003, an injured harp seal made its way into the Gowanus Canal and was nursed back to health with the help of the Riverhead Foundation. Later that year, a sister-seal known as Tama-Chan traveled from her home in Japan to visit Gowanda. Really.
10mm Glock Handgun, Bronx River. The French filmmakers who accompanied a crew of researchers studying baby eels in the Bronx River wondered if the researchers had planted this piece of urban naturalism; they hadn’t. The gun was dumped in the River after a shooting. Read the story of its discovery here.
Deer, Lower New York Bay. We don’t expect to see deer in New York City, let alone in the waterways of New York. But in October 2011, three frantic deer were found at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn. Naturally strong swimmers, the deer likely swam over from Staten Island, but the circumstances of their watery journey are suspicious: one deer’s hind legs were bound with twine.
Zone A, New York City. During Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers discovered that their love affair with the city’s waterfront could become a battle. Lives, beaches, homes, cars, photo albums, beloved tokens and much more were lost to the water. We would love to share your stories of objects lost or saved; keep them coming.
Parts of Zone B, New York City. Some neighborhoods that were not in mandatory evacuation zones, like Gerritson Beach and Canarsie, Brooklyn, were unexpectedly flooded, too.
Messages in a Tube, Hudson River. In the fall of 2015, students in the New School for Drama's intermediate playwriting class wrote a wish, a stone, or a missive, put it in a plastic tube, and chucked it into the Hudson where Bank Street meets the river. What do these objects long for, release, or need to say? Where will their scribing surface?
A Single Red Rose and a Bunch of Carnations, Dead Horse Bay. These fresh flowers couldn’t have been in the water for more than a day. Is it possible to tell their story without sentimentality or cliché? Try it—we dare you. See a photo here.
Stripped Cars, East River, Gerritsen Beach. On beaches near the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges lie the rusting remains of many cars, mostly from the '70s and '80s. We’re guessing this is what people did before Cash for Clunkers.
Half-Decayed Radio, Coney Island Creek. We found this radio propped upright along the edge of the creek, wrapped in seaweed, just waiting for someone to hit Play.
Monkey Comforter, Plum Beach. Was it swept off of an ill-fated bed?
Teredos and Gribbles, East River. These critters are like underwater termites, chomping at the wood that holds up those little ol’ structures we call bridges. We knew the Tappan Zee was a total hazard, but FDR Drive? One more reason to take the subway.
Abyss, The Narrows. Near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the river reaches its deepest point (96 feet) as it flows toward the Atlantic Ocean.
Birdcage, Gowanus Canal. “I am a cage,” wrote Kafka, “in search of a bird.”
Volvo, Gowanus Canal. In May 2009, a man drove his Volvo into the Gowanus. A firefighter dove into the canal after him and saved the driver. After swallowing water during the rescue, the firefighter received two Hepatitis B shots.
Island Growing On A Submerged Barge, Coney Island Creek. Since we can’t seem to shut off our inner writer, we see a metaphor here—new life blooming from the rot of something lost. Tell us what you see. Or rather (our inner workshop-writers correct) show us. Don’t tell.
Bottle of Mementos, Hudson River. Contributor Said Sayrafiezadeh and his wife, Karen, celebrated their marriage by tossing a bottle of mementos, including his therapist’s business card, into the river.
Cedar Grove Beach Bungalows, Cedar Grove Beach. The beach bungalows on Cedar Grove Beach were beloved summer homes to Staten Island families for more than a century, until the Parks Department evicted the residents. Read more about them here.
Heel with a Key Nailed to It, Dead Horse Bay. Found on our excursion with the teachers of the Sarah Lawrence Child Development Institute. Did these two objects go into the water together or find each other once submerged? See a photo here.
Hebrew Newspaper Fossil, Dead Horse Bay. Found on our excursion with the teachers of the Sarah Lawrence Child Development Institute. See a photo here.
Aztec Broiler, Dead Horse Bay. Found on our excursion with the teachers of the Sarah Lawrence Child Development Institute. See a photo here.
Dolphins, East River, Newtown Creek, the Rockaways. A fireboat captain spotted dolphins near the Navy Yard just a day after a NY Harbor School educator saw a 7-footer in toxic Newtown Creek. The mammals are also regularly seen off the Rockaways.
Baby Humpback Whale, beached in East Hampton. For three days in April 2010, this baby fought for its life before being euthanized (three rounds of sedatives and three gunshots). Marine biologists didn’t know how it arrived there, but knew it wouldn’t survive on its own, even if freed.
Pan Flute, Dead Horse Bay. So red and cheerful–imagine the music this instrument could make!
The Ferry Ellis Island, New York Harbor. This boat once ferried millions of immigrants to Manhattan where the untold future unfolded. After decades underwater, the ferry was surfaced in December 2009. Imagine why the boat was abandoned to the water—and why was it recovered?
Produce, Dead Horse Bay. One day, our editors found a tangerine, a plantain, a sun-bleached jalapeño pepper, and a bunch of grapes on the beach. We haven’t had any recipe submissions yet, but maybe you have some ideas. See a photo here.
Heavy Oil, Gowanus Canal. Actually, it’s a combination of silt, coal tar, and something referred to as “black mayonnaise.” We wish we could take credit for theterm, but we can’t. This mixture lines the bottom of the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site.
Hurricane Sandy, All Over. Also known as Superstorm Sandy, this disaster plunged much of New York City underwater.
New Main Stream, Hudson River. This refers to a current pattern, not a cultural trend. When Battery Park City was built in the 1970s, it rerouted the current in the Hudson, which now scrapes the protective layer of mud off the top of the Lincoln Tunnel. If the tunnel ever becomes exposed, the Port Authority will have to worry about potential cracking, shifting, and terrorist threats.
Currents, All Over. Because New York City’s waterways include both rivers and tidal estuaries, the currents are changing.
Wharf Rats, The Narrows. New Yorkers are used to seeing these creatures on the subway tracks while they’re waiting for a train.Next time you’re near a wharf, take a look. Surprise!
HMS Hussar, East River. This British vessel sank in Hell Gate in 1780, with treasure aboard, so the rumor goes. Salvage attempts over the years have been futile; the remains of the ship may lie in a Bronx landfill. Hear a story about it here.
Schools of Contaminated Fish, Hudson River / Rockaways / Coney Island. Despite the pollutants that surround our city, fish like shad and striped bass are increasing in number. Underwater New York is committed to building relationships with organizations that have a vested interest in the health of our waterways. This is why.
Rebar, East River. The water’s edge is sharply defined by concrete in order to accommodate docks and roads. Over time, the concrete cracks, revealing tons of rebar, whichacts as a kind of netting, snagging junk like old tires and garbage cans.
Boot, Plum Beach. How do you lose just one shoe?
Cleat, DUMBO. Which ships once anchored to this cleat?
Old Channels, New York Harbor. Ambrose Channel was once the main shipping route into New York Harbor. At45 feet deep, the old channel couldn’t accommodate the newest super-container ships.
Dead Bodies, East River. Because of the current, human and animal bodies tend to accumulate in nooks and crags near the Manhattan Bridge.
Dead Body, Little Neck Bay. Sadly, there’s probably been at least one in every NYC waterway.
Alligators, Hudson River. When the wooden pilings at the edge of Manhattan known as alligators, are knocked loose, they become treacherous floaters, ready to ram into anything that crosses their path.
Shark, Gowanus Canal. In 1952, a large shark was spotted in the canal, before the cops shot it.
Contaminated Mud, New York Harbor. In order to accommodate the biggest and newest container ships, old channels need to be deepened. As a result, the bottom of the harbor, which is full of contaminants like mercury and DDT, is being dredged at an enormous cost.
Shipwrecks, all over. Hundreds of shipwrecks have been uncovered in the lower Hudson. Because they’re archaeological sites, their exact location remains a secret, even to us.
Oil, Toxins, and Raw Sewage, Newtown Creek. Newtown Creek is an estuary that traverses the border between Brooklyn and Queens. It is infamous for its 17 million gallons of oil, raw sewage, and chemicals, which make it one of the most polluted industrial sites in America.
Reef Ball Habitats, Hudson River. Seven hundred of them, to be exact. The habitats resemble small concrete igloos and were made by inmates at Cumberland County Penitentiary to house fish in the Garden State North Reef.
Lightship Frying Pan, Chelsea Pier 66, Hudson River. This lightship was submerged for three years in the Chesapeake Bay before its current owners acquired it. Now you can get drunk on it and throw launch parties devoted to underwater objects.
Cholera, Typhoid, Typhus, and Gonorrhea, Gowanus Canal. Enough said.
Minke Whale, Gowanus Canal. Like the shark before it, the whale swam into the canal in 2007, beached itself, and sadly, died.
Mermaid, The Coral Room. Mermaids have wet dreams. So says Julie Atlas Muz, a performance artist, former Miss Exotic World, and head mermaid of the 9,000 gallon tank at The Coral Room in Chelsea. We wish The Coral Room was still open, but through your stories, the mermaid show can live on.
Mermaid Figurine, Dead Horse Bay. This tiny reclining beauty lost her tail.
Scooter, Newtown Creek. This scooter kind of like a hipster ghost rider. (Thankfully, no skull in sight.) We do wonder what treasures were hidden beneath the seat. Take a look at Nate Dorr’s photo, and tell us a story about this ill-fated ride.
PS General Slocum, East River. On June 15, 1905, the General Slocum caught fire and sank in the East River, taking with it 1,021 German immigrants on their way to a church picnic. It was the worst maritime disaster in NYC’s history and the gravest loss of life until September 11, 2001.
1897 Pocketwatch, Coney Island. Another find by Gene Ritter. This baby was keeping time well over a century ago. What else did it keep? Tell us its secrets.
South Street Seaport Museum, East River. Built on landfill at the southern tip of Manhattan, the Museum returned to the sea during Hurricane Sandy when it was flooded with six feet of water. Just a month earlier, UNY collaborated with the American Folk Art Museum’s exhibition of nautical folk art to present a reading of original stories based on the building and the work.
White Boat, Coney Island Creek. Speed boat no longer, this gutted Larson looks like the bitter end of a mid-life crisis. (Now we’re editorializing.) Just try to look at this thing without seeing a story.See a photo here.
Hog Island, The Rockaways. Shaped like a hog or grazed by hogs, the jury is out on how Hog Island got its name, but how it got its fame is without debate. A beach retreat for Boss Tweed and his Tammany pals, this island was completely submerged by a category 2 hurricane that hit Brooklyn and Queens on August 23, 1893.
Horse Trailer, Bronx River. We’ve heard of plenty of cars winding up in NYC’s waterways, and specifically in the Bronx River, but this is a new one. What happened to the horse?
Horse Shoe, Bronx River. Did the horse lose its shoe while escaping the trailer?
East Tremont Bottling Co. Bottle, Bronx River. The bottling company seems to have moved to New Jersey, but at least one of its bottles stayed behind.
Refrigerator, Bronx River. There used to be an appliance repair shop near the Bronx River; when an object was beyond repair, into the river it went!
Hot Plate, Bronx River. The hot plate was hauled from the Bronx River by Bronx River Restoration Project volunteers.
Ceiling Fan, Bronx River. The ceiling fan was pulled from the Bronx River by volunteers, but how did it get there?
Shopping Carts, Bronx River, Coney Island Creek, New Dorp Beach. Countless shopping carts have met their fate on the muddy floors of New York City’s waterways.
Little Red Lighthouse Swimmers, Hudson River. The Little Red Lighthouse Swim takes long distance swimmers on a journey through the currents of the Hudson River. Find out more about it here.
American Eel, Bronx River. In the process of counting migratory baby eels in the Bronx River, researchers discovered a discarded handgun. We thinkthe eels are the more surprising find. Read their story here.
Governors Island Houses, New York Harbor. There’s the Admiral’s House, the generals’ housing of Colonels Row, and the officers’ housing in Nolan Park. All of them were once inhabited, waiting for their stories to be told. We were thrilled the day that author Lois Lowry walked into Nolan Park 5B, where we co-host an artist residency with Works on Water. The former colonel’s daughter remembered sunbathing on the roof of the house!
NY Pelagic, all over. Artist George Boorujy launched engraved bottles stuffed with his drawings of pelagic birds and a survey into the waterways of NYC, hoping to hear back from the folks that found them.
Fort Lafayette, The Narrows. This fort, built by Robert E. Lee, was once a Civil War Confederate Prison. Rebuilt after a catastrophic fire in 1868, the fort was ultimately destroyed in 1960 with the construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Party Barge, Flushing Bay. Half-sunk near College Point, this labyrinthine abandoned structure has seen better days.
Plane Crash, Jamaica Bay. American Airlines Flight 1, bound for Los Angeles, crashed shortly after take off on March 1, 1962. Eighty-seven passengers and eight crew members were lost. Fifteen paintings by artist Arshile Gorky, en route to a California exhibition, also went down with the plane.
Sea Glass, New Dorp Beach. The water recycles our old beer bottles into something enduringly lovely.
Toy Airplane, Dead Horse Bay. How far did this plane travel to land in DHB?
Tons of Silt, Hudson River. Every day, 2200 tons of sediment is carried through the Hudson from upstate. It’s this silt that gives the Hudson its dismal brown hue.
Toilet Paper. We’d like to give you the exact location of this stuff, but sadly, it’s everywhere.
Raw Sewage. Ditto. Especially when it rains.
Abandoned Buoy, Coney Island Creek. Adrian Kinloch found the buoy on one of his evening excursions to Coney Island Creek, where abandoned objects collect and decay, or grow barnacles of rock, rust, and mysterious mar.
Art in a Bottle, Coney Island Creek. Maggie Tobin asks of this drawing found in a bottle, “Is it an actual [Robert] Smithson or a well conceived prank?”
Gas Main, Hudson River. Each week, this main carries gas from NYC to the Gulf of Mexico. It takes about a week to make the trip.
Clams, The Rockaways. Why is this aquatic life unique enough to list, you might ask? Because they’re being fished and eaten, that’s why. Although most high-end restaurants wouldn’t dream of serving you Rockaway clams, some not-so-high-end restaurants do. Don’t email us to find out who, because we have no idea.
Blue Crabs, Hudson River. Toxins found in the Hudson River show upin the bodies of blue crabs, which is why the DEC limits how many crabs New Yorkers–especially children and women of child-bearing age–should eat!
Shallow Water, East and Hudson Rivers. Much of the water near the shore and around Liberty Island is less than ten feet deep. This makes us think of that Edie Brickell song (but now we’re dating ourselves).
Fresh Water, Bronx River. The City’s only freshwater river is in the Bronx.
Eyeglasses, Dead Horse Bay. What scenes have these glasses framed over the years?
Deck of Cards, Gowanus Canal. Anyone for a game of Go Fish?
Concrete Pilings, East River. Discussing a housing complex built on Manhattan’s East Side, artist Rick Caruso says: “The other weird aspect of Waterside is that it’s built on a platform jutting into the East river which is supported by—I think—hundreds of concrete pilings and they actually have a team of full time divers that dive everyday to check and fortify the pilings.”
Mussel Shells, New Dorp Beach. The stuff of poetry–blue-black shells, alone or in piles.
Pants, New Dorp Beach. There are so many ways you could lose a pair of pants at the beach. How did these get here?
Shoes, Dead Horse Bay. Maybe all shoes look old when they’ve been worn down by the sea, but the ones that wash up on DHB seem especially ghostly. See a photo here.
Yellow Bear, Dead Horse Bay. This sunny little guy was cartwheeling across DHB when we found him.
St. John’s Guild Children’s Hospital, New Dorp Beach. Over the years, entropy washed this abandoned children’s hospital into the waters off of Staten Island. Read more about it here.
Waterpod, Various Locations. A project by artist Mary Mattingly, the Waterpod was docked in Queens when it hosted the first UNY reading in 2009.
Tampon Applicators, New Dorp Beach. We’ve heard these are known locally as “beach whistles.”
Couch, Arthur Kill. It must take a lot of effort to move a whole couch into a waterway, no?
Roller Skates, Dead Horse Bay. We found one roller skate and the folks at Proteus Gowanus found another. Did the same child once own both?
Bicycle, East River. This bike turned up near Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City on April 18, 2004. See a picture here.
Flying Saucer, East River. Jeff Woodbury, who spotted this flying saucer at 3:02 PM on April 18, 2004, says: "We usually imagine aliens to be somewhat human-sized, but this proves differently.” See a picture here.
Bass, Bullhead Catfish, Blue Gills, Turtles and Carp, Bronx River. These are just a few of the species that now live in a river that was once barely visible through the trash.
Oysters, White Perch, Herring, Striped Bass, Crabs, Jellyfish, and Anchovies, Gowanus Canal. Who would think that anything, aside from the mysterious white goo, could thrive in such polluted waters?
Jet Ski, Long Island Sound. This vehicle was obtained by artist Marie Lorenz, who made a print from it. Imagine who rode it before it became artwork.
Plastic Purse, Newark Bay. This plastic purse turned up on Shooters Island, a bird sanctuary between Staten Island and New Jersey. Before it landed there, it used to be hooked on someone’s arm. Whose?
Seahorses, Lower New York Bay. These ancient, armored creatures still live among us. The Lined Seahorse is a native New Yorker.
Baby Jell-O, Gowanus Canal. This baby jelly was fished from the Gowanus by the New York Times urban forager and spent a few hours nestled inside a jar at our evening of poetry and performance at Proteus Gowanus in 2010. See a picture here.
Tire, Atlantic Ocean. The tire was found by Jeff Woodbury on 11:54pm on July 4, 2004 at Oakwood Beach on Staten Island. See a picture here.
Engine Block, Atlantic Ocean. Another find by Jeff Woodbury at 2:02pm, July 4, 2004, at Oakwood Beach on Staten Island. See a picture here.
Car Parts, Atlantic Ocean. Jeff Woodbury spotted these car parts at 2:05pm on July 4, 2004. Perhaps they belong with the tire and engine block? See a picture here.
Curtain, East River. Jeff Woodbury saw this curtain wash up in Long Island City at 3pm on April 18, 2004. See a picture here.