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From Subway to Atlantic – how Subway Cars Provide Marine Life with a Unique Habitat

Ian Harvey


Whenever we observe something dumped into an ocean, river or any other water reservoir, we feel disgusting, assuming that the action will result into an environmental disaster. However, if you happen to see New York subway being thrown into the ocean, don’t be deceived by it, because it is for the greater good. A large number of Subway carriages eventually end up in the ocean to serve the environment in a very unique way.


The process is pretty simple; first the cars are stripped of everything that can be reused like the chairs and lights. After the initial cleaning the carriages are then loaded on a barge to be dumped to an unknown dropping point. Authorities categorically discourage any public ‘probing’ into the dumped cars, since the intention is to leave them for the aquatic world.



For the last three years, Stephen Mallon has been working on the less known ‘recycling’ of the Subway Cars. Stephen Mallon is a photographer for the Front Room Gallery, who has captured a number of images of the Subway carriages being transported to be dropped into the Ocean. Mallon seems perplexed by the ingenuity of the people who came up with the idea. He expressed his appreciation for the Subway Authority for coming up with such unique initiative and hoped other industries will follow their footsteps.

After the cars are dropped into the ocean, the underwater creatures get to their business of converting these man-made structures into their ‘habitats’. Some 2,500 cars have so far been dumped into the Atlantic to be used as underwater reefs for some of the rare species living in the Ocean.

Mallon says that he lived in New York City for most part of the last two decades but he never came across this rare and interesting phenomenon taking place in the city. The 42-year-old photographer has an ongoing project named American Reclamation, focusing on the somewhat neglected Recycling industry of United States.

According to the Subway authorities, despite the fact the underground cars are not open to the public, a number of ecologists and marine scientists frequently visit the unique ‘reefs’ to monitor the progress and study the marine adaptation in the cars. (Can You Actually)

Public can visit the exhibition to see the pictures of the cars taken by Mallon during his project. Seeing the marine life slowly taking over something that we urban dwellers could actually relate to, is a spectacular experience.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News