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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Explorin' Part 2 - Dead Horse Bay

The name Dead Horse Bay is provocative enough, and the place easily lives up to its name.
A coworker told me about this beach in Brooklyn, along with a requisite piece of information - go during low tide. So, I examined the tide tables for Jamaica Bay, New York City, and timed my trip accordingly. I parked my vehicle at the ranger station at Floyd Bennett Field. A walk across the main thoroughfare and short hike through the beach forest trail opens up to the bay. Surprisingly, none of the rangers had made the hike and were eager to hear my report upon return.

The beach is strewn with a myriad of artifacts - primarily glass bottles, forming a blue-green carpet of glass. Make no mistake, however - Dead Horse Bay is essentially a beach of trash, albeit very interesting trash. There are dishes, toys, parts of sinks, rusted metal devices, and even mating horseshoe crabs - see my gallery of photos here. The history of this bizarre place is always the first question asked. From the New York Times:

Dead Horse Bay sits at the western edge of a marshland once dotted by more than two dozen horse-rendering plants, fish oil factories and garbage incinerators. From the 1850's until the 1930's, the carcasses of dead horses and other animals from New York City streets were used to manufacture glue, fertilizer and other products at the site. The chopped-up, boiled bones were later dumped into the water. The squalid bay, then accessible only by boat, was reviled for the putrid fumes that hung overhead.

Once marshland, the area became slowly filled with trash and the landfill capped. The cap burst in the 1950's, spewing articles from the early 20th century into the surrounding beach water.

After walking the entire beach, I was prepared to leave. However, the fact that I had seen no evidence of dead horses was nagging at me, so I decided to backtrack and question a woman who I had noticed earlier had been combing with the intent of a repeat visitor. Alas, good that I did - Angela pointed out that horse bones were, in fact, everywhere - you just had to know what to look for. Sure enough, once they were pointed out to me and my companion, we saw them everywhere. Angela had found what appeared to be a 32-sided game die and asked if I could take photos for her. You can see it here.

If you visit Dead Horse Bay, remember to wear good shoes/boots to protect you from all the shards of glass and other sharp objects. Oh, and happy explorin' :)


Someone Said said...

This is an extraordinary entry. Great pictures!

Peter Yang Zhao said...

Great story and photos. I've been to the field but never know about this beach. I will surely go bone hunting next time I'm there.

J-o-h-n-n-y said...

way cool~

sk8crete said...

I was wondering where the bones are in the photos! Like where's Waldo?

Brian Dubé said...

Someone Said - yes it is.

Peter & Johnny - Thanks

sk8crete - In the center of the top photo there is a flared tubular piece - that is a section of a horse bone.

LD said...

This is a great site you have.I like your offbeat discoveries and this trash beach is indeed bizarre. Like trash from 1936. That blue glass is rare.

Karen said...

so intersting, so cool, so bad...oh my gosh I cannot imagine a place like existing in North America! Love your blog!