The Quest for Coney Island Creek’s Sunken Submarine | Atlas Obscura

The Quest for Coney Island Creek’s Sunken Submarine | Atlas Obscura


– I’m Dylan Thuras
reporting for Atlas Obscura, and I’m about to go row out to the sunken submarine of Coney Island. You can find this
unbelievable site, right here, behind the Home Depot. The sunken scrap metal submarine: It sounds like a myth,
but here in Coney Island, it turns out to be very real. It’s a story of big dreams, lost treasure, and a forgotten body of water. But before I can tell you
the story of the submarine, I have to find it. Huh, I feel like maybe there was something else over here before. It’s been a few years, but I’m pretty sure this is basically they way you get in. So it’s actually more, kinda more behind this Cube Smart now. I mean, you can see
even from that entrance that it’s a weird park. It’s a public park, just one
of New York’s public parks. It’s listed on the New York
Parks Department website, but the whole thing has always had this slightly illegitimate feel to it. All this Queen Anne’s lace
blooming right now, nice. Very pretty weed. This is something I
always liked about this- is how immediately, like
both slightly sketchy and kind of, like, a little bit… I don’t want to bother these people. There’s like some people
who are set up here. I wanna leave them alone. So we’ll go back the way we came. This area, the remains of
the creek that made Coney an actual island, it used
to go by another name. It was called Gravesend Creek. The name has Dutch origins,
but to me it sounds like a place where the dead end up. And it’s not that far from the truth. Trying to figure out what I think it is. It could be a goat or something, honestly. Or some kind of…’cause it has… Oh, what do I know? If you can figure out what kind of skull this is in the comments,
please let us know. I should be better at this than I am. Whoa! That is a giant
dead horseshoe crab body. It’s a bread! That’s the funny thing about this stretch, is there’s just this weird mix of totally natural world and then Doritos chip bags. Over time, this forgotten creek became a dumping ground for anything
people wanted to dispose of- in particular, old ships. Unwanted by their
owners, ships were sailed in here and set on fire,
burned all the way down to their timbers, leaving
behind these wooden skeletons. But there’s one wreck that
stands out from the rest, one that fills the imagination
of anyone who sees it. There’s our first sighting, actually. So that’s, there off in the
distance, that’s the sub. You can see it’s still got its little yellow top over there. You would think that the
yellow submarine thing would be a reference to
the Beatles, but it wasn’t. It was just the cheapest color
of paint that could be found. The path that I had been planning to take is pretty much totally overgrown. So I’m going to go around the other side, and we’re going to go get in a boat and row out to the submarine. I’m actually really excited to get on the water and check it out. Like, “on the water,” I’m going
to be in an inflatable raft, but you know, that’s on the water for me. Hey, how you doing? I’ve never actually put
this boat together before. The submarine is called the Quester I, so this should be probably the Quester II- would be a good name for this ship. The Quester I was the
dream of Jerry Bianco, a shipyard worker from Brooklyn. In 1956, Jerry heard about the sinking of the S.S. Andrea Doria,
an Italian ocean liner that had gone to the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Nantucket. Jerry figured he was the guy
to go and recover the ship. All he needed was a submarine. It almost feels like you could walk out there when it’s low tide. There are wrecks so close around it, but I think that’s not a good plan. Oh yeah, it’s right there. That’s awesome. Jerry actually had some
experience with submarines, having worked on one as a
shipbuilder at the navy yard. So along with library research
and a rich imagination, he created his plan for Quester I. And starting in 1967, bit by bit, Jerry welded together his
scrap metal submarine. When it was finished, he
had it tested by the Navy, who found it capable
of diving to 600 feet- more than enough to get
to the Andrea Doria. It’s actually a little bit easier, ’cause I was afraid I was going to have to blow this raft up without a pump, which actually seems impossible.
Like, yeah, there’s no way. So, yeah, I’m pleasantly surprised by both the heftiness of the raft, the kind of solidity of it, and how quickly it’s come together. Alright, I gotta make the oars. This is a good example
of a place and a story that you could live here and never know that there was a homemade submarine sitting in the middle
of Coney Island Creek. It’s always wonderful to remember how magical and mythical
the place you live in is. Okay, alrighty. Oh boy, this boat is going to be gross. Oh, that’s a smell. Like diapers, kind of. Organic. Yes. It might actually be diapers. Alright, so, we’re on the
water, this is happening. No one said I had to go quickly, so… I see some obstacles already, oh boy. Alright, this is extremely shallow. This is, like, a foot of water. I may have overestimated
the draft, I think. I really could be walking in this, not that I would want to be, yuck. Here we go, here we go. So we’re getting close here. This thing is big; this
thing is really big. I knew it was like 40
feet, but it’s a lot like the dimensions of a school bus. This has been a
longstanding quest of mine. It’s something I’ve wanted to
do for a really long while. And this thing, a homemade submarine, of which there aren’t, you know, a lot of examples in the world, is sitting right here in Brooklyn. And I’ve never gone out to it before. I mean, I’ve come to
Coney Island Creek before. I’ve seen it from a distance. This is my first time
actually getting up close. And it’s a lot more impressive up close. It almost looks like a plane. It’s got sort of a, kind of like, a crashed plane vibe to it. So on October 19, 1970,
the submarine was ready. Jerry’s daughter Patricia
christened it with a bottle of champagne and they
lowered it into the water. But Gravesend Creek had other ideas. The sub promptly rolled
onto its side and got stuck. Jerry spent a few years
trying to save the submarine, but that was its only voyage. Years later, a storm pulled the sub out to this spot, where
I am, leaving a monument to Jerry Bianco’s bigger-than-life dreams. So, made it here, out to the sub. That’s it behind me. Is that better?
Yeah, sort of. And it’s gigantic; it’s
really quite impressive. I can see fish jumping around. There’s birds flying everywhere. It’s pretty, uh…kinda nice out here. It’s just a pretty place to be. I’m going to try and go around the sub. So this is it, this is the Quester I, in all of its glory. You could reasonably ask
the question, “Who cares?” “Who cares there’s a submarine sitting in Coney Island Creek? What does that matter?” I think not just the submarine, but this whole place, is a
time capsule of New York. You can see straight through it. And when I see something like
this, my world just grows. It suddenly feels like
anything is possible. If there is a sunken, or partially sunken, if there is a homemade submarine sitting in the middle
of Coney Island Creek, what else am I missing around me? What else is tucked away in Prospect Park, or Crown Heights, or Harlem, or any other part of the city, or any other part of the world? This is just a tiny
story in one little piece of an endless landscape
of discovery and wonder. And I just, I really like coming out and seeing these things in
person, ’cause they become real. They leave the land of mythology and they become an actual
object filled with, what seem to be nesting pigeons. If my goal was to not get wet, that was abandoned a long time ago. I am going to smell
like Coney Island Creek. So we got to get out of here, ’cause the tide is actually
coming up pretty quickly. It raised, like, a foot
in the last few minutes. But I hope you enjoyed
watching this video. Click to subscribe and tell me what other great New York adventures
I should go on next. I loved doing this, taking this quest, and I want to hear from
you what other quests you think are worth undertaking.

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