Only a few miles from the luxury skyscrapers and busy streets of New York City is the Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard, which sits in the waters off Rossville, Staten Island. It is filled with rusting and abandoned ships and strewn with debris. Drone footage captured by Chad Aaronson is allowing people to see a unique close-up aerial view of the derelict graveyard. Normally, access to this shipyard is only possible by walking through people’s houses after asking permission.
Sitting in the water on the south side of Staten Island are great old ships in various stages of disintegration. They lie only 20 miles from Manhattan and 18 miles from Brooklyn. This is one of the largest dumping grounds of unwanted ships on the East Coast. The ships moulder there, being hammered by the elements until they are dismantled or salvaged.
There are tugboats, warships, ferries, and barges on the site. Back before it became a ship graveyard, the site was a slip used by the Blazing Star Ferry, which used to transport cargo and passengers across from Arthur Kill to Woodbridge Township in New Jersey.
In the 1930s, the Witt’s Marine Equipment Company, the salvage company that worked to collect and salvage parts from decommissioned ships, founded the gravesite. The owner managed to collect hundreds of warships, including a submarine destroyer that was the first ship manned by an all-black crew in World War II, and a warship that took part in the D-Day invasion.
Also resting there is a New York Fire Department Fireboat that served from 1903 to 1958 and was named after Abram S. Hewitt, who was mayor of New York City in 1886. The ship helped save many lives in its lifetime, including the passengers from the General Slocum, a passenger boat that sunk in 1904 in the East River.
The graveyard of abandoned rusty ships has become a tourist attraction due to its eerie nature, and regardless of “No Trespassing” signs people still visit along makeshift paths and go by kayak. At one point, the graveyard held 400 ships but now only about 25 remains. It is hard work dismantling the ships, with all the rust and the problem of some ships containing toxic elements.
The style of tourism this area attracts is called “ruin tourism” as it focuses predominately on old ruins like the shipyards or places like the Michigan Central Train Depot and the Packard plant in Detroit.
There is something hauntingly beautiful about witnessing these remnants of our past being reclaimed by nature. There are kayaking tours available and they are often sold out, as the shipyard is a unique and captivating site for historians, photographers, and members of the general public who want to view such things.
The drone footage of the graveyard can be seen below: