Passing by an ancient graveyard and traversing reeds through a smelly, boggy mangrove you can find the Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard. The ship carcasses have been piling up since WWII; although, there were once many more dead boats at this location than there are today. The original owner of the “Witte Scrapyard”, John J. Witte, was responsible for acquiring the collection of ships for the purpose of harvesting scrap and parts. However, Witte never scrapped most of the ships and amassed around 400 boats during his lifetime. The scrapyard was sold to DonJon Marine Company after Witte passed away in 1980. The current owners have been more motivated to dismantle the ships. As a result, the current tally has been reduced to approximately 30 ships, not including the many dinghies piled up.
Among the rusting hulls are many historic vessels including a submarine chaser “USS PC-1264”, a large steam powered tugboat “USS Bloxom” and the U.S. Navy’s USS YOG-64 gas tanker among others. Not pictured is the submarine chaser which is known as being one of the first to be manned primarily by an African American crew during WWII. Pictured above: 1) The USS Bloxom is a steam powered tugboat from the 1940s. 2) Present for a nuclear weapons test at Bikini Atoll in 1948 was the tanker YOG-64.
If you wish to access this site there are two options. Go in by kayak or hike through the mud on the property adjacent to DonJon Marine at low tide. The former option can be facilitated by Kayak East’s “Graveyard of Ships Tour” during the summer months. As far as I can tell the land adjacent to DonJon’s is public, therefor, you should be able to photograph the boats from shore legally. Scampering out onto the hulks is trespassing; however, it makes for a more interesting photo-shoot. If you want to see more of the ships from afar there is a documentary called Graves of the Arthur Kill or you can watch the youtube video below from Jersey Drone. For additional photos follow the link to my Flickr account.