The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

from Hells Gate, loosed upon the world

with 6 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Friday of memorial day weekend, your humble narrator stumbled into the wilds of Astoria, headed for Astoria Park. Astoria Park is at the western end of Queens, and adjoins the East River, hosting parts of both the mighty Triboro Bridge and the sublime exemplar of bridge engineering called Hellgate. Named for the section of the East River it crosses, Hellgate was my intended destination and subject, and I was hoping for some visually interesting rail traffic to be crossing the great bridge. Frustrated by a gray and humid day, the Acela and other Amtrak traffic was observed, as well as a curious CSX double engine. Then…


Astoria Park, on the west shore of Queens, extends from south of the Triborough Bridge to north of the Hell Gate Bridge. With a panoramic view of the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan in the south to the Hell Gate channel in the north, the scenery presents the diverse landscape of New York City. The Hell Gate channel, formed by faults deep underground, contains some of the deepest water in New York Harbor. Its treacherous reefs bear picturesque names such as “Hen and Chickens,” “Pot Rock,” “Bread & Cheese,” and “Bald Headed Billy.”

Throughout the centuries the stunning natural beauty of this location has attracted visitors and settlers. Before the arrival of European colonists, a trail passed by the site, and an Indian village flourished at Pot Cove. Local inhabitants grew maize on the shores, fished in Hell Gate, and drew water from Linden Brook, a small stream that still flows under Astoria Park South. In the mid-1600s the Dutch parceled out this land to various owners, including William Hallet whose grant embraced hundreds of acres. During the American Revolution, several British and Hessian regiments were stationed in the area. On November 25, 1780 the frigate Hussar and its five-million-dollar cargo sank to the bottom of Hell Gate, where despite some removal of cannons, the treasure still remains.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve become pretty familiar with NY Harbor in the last year, and can identify some of the common types of ships that cross its waters. Every now and then, however, a mysterious craft- an unidentified floating object or UFO if you will- crosses in front of me. Proceeding south, this catamaran (actually a trimaran) was nearly devoid of markings- which is remarkable in itself- and moving at a tremendous clip. Its “colorway” and hull shape instantly said “military” to me, but I could not recognize its specie.

from wikipedia

The first trimarans were built by indigenous Polynesians almost 4,000 years ago, and much of the current terminology is inherited from them. Multihull sailboats (catamarans and trimarans) gained favor during the 1960s and 1970s. Modern recreational trimarans are rooted in the same homebuilt tradition as other multihulls but there are also a number of production models on the market. A number of trimarans in the 19–36-foot lengths (5.8–11 m) have been designed over the last 30 years to be accommodated on a road trailer. These include the original Farrier – Corsair folding trimarans – and original John Westell swing-wing folding trimaran (using the same folding system later adopted also on Quorning Dragonfly) and like trimarans. Many sailboat designers have also designed demountable trimarans that are able to be trailered (like the SeaCart 30 by Oceanlake Marine).

The trimaran design is also becoming more widespread as a passenger ferry. In 2005 the 127-metre trimaran (417 ft) Benchijigua Express was delivered by Austal to Spanish ferry operator Fred. Olsen, S.A. for service in the Canary Islands. Capable of carrying 1,280 passengers and 340 cars, or equivalents, at speeds up to 40 knots, this boat was the longest aluminum ship in the world at the time of delivery. The trimaran concept has also been considered for modern warships. The RV Triton was commissioned by British defence contractor QinetiQ in 2000. In October 2005, the United States Navy commissioned for evaluation the construction of a General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) trimaran designed and built by Austal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Evocative, as on one hand it resembled a radar dodging stealth aircraft for the odd angles and aerodynamic shape, on the other it suggested a modern combat tank with its armor designed to deflect rather than defeat ballistic weapons.

The ship, nevertheless, was kicking up a huge wake and was shooting water behind it- some 10-20 feet high- as it rocketed down the East River.

from wikipedia

The littoral zone refers to that part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore. In coastal environments the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged. It always includes this intertidal zone and is often used to mean the same as the intertidal zone. However, the meaning of “littoral zone” can extend well beyond the intertidal zone.

There is no single definition. What is regarded as the full extent of the littoral zone, and the way the littoral zone is divided into subregions, varies in different contexts (lakes and rivers have their own definitions). The use of the term also varies from one part of the world to another, and between different disciplines. For example, military commanders speak of the littoral in ways that are quite different from marine biologists.

The adjacency of water gives a number of distinctive characteristics to littoral regions. The erosive power of water results in particular types of landforms, such as sand dunes, and estuaries. The natural movement of the littoral along the coast is called the littoral drift. Biologically, the ready availability of water enables a greater variety of plant and animal life, and the additional local humidity due to evaporation usually creates a microclimate supporting unique types of organisms.

The word “littoral” is used both as a noun and an adjective. It derives from the Latin noun litus, litoris, meaning “shore”. (The doubled ‘t’ is a late medieval innovation and the word is sometimes seen in the more classical-looking spelling ‘litoral’.)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The “colorway” and camouflage of the craft suggested that the futurists of Britain still have modern adherents, long after the last of the “dazzle ships” were launched.

For those of you not in the know, the Dazzle Ships were an experiment in “breaking up the shape” of large combat vessels against the horizon, an attempt to reduce the visual profile of capital ships and reduce the ability of submariners to target vital areas of said ships. Dazzle works best at distance, which is what modern naval combat is all about.

from wikipedia

At first glance Dazzle seems unlikely camouflage, drawing attention to the ship rather than hiding it, but this technique was developed after the Allied Navies were unable to develop effective means to disguise ships in all weather.

Dazzle did not conceal the ship but made it difficult for the enemy to estimate its type, size, speed and heading. The idea was to disrupt the visual rangefinders used for naval artillery. Its purpose was confusion rather than concealment. An observer would find it difficult to know exactly whether the stern or the bow is in view; and it would be equally difficult to estimate whether the observed vessel is moving towards or away from the observer’s position.

Rangefinders were based on the co-incidence principle with an optical mechanism, operated by a human to compute the range. The operator adjusted the mechanism until two half-images of the target lined up in a complete picture. Dazzle was intended to make that hard because clashing patterns looked abnormal even when the two halves were aligned. This became more important when submarine periscopes included similar rangefinders. As an additional feature, the dazzle pattern usually included a false bow wave to make estimation of the ship’s speed difficult.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, my computer was down for the holiday weekend, but Our Lady of the Pentacle allowed me to use her laptop and I managed to get a few of these images out to that clandestine and anonymous network of maritime enthusiasts and quasi governmental experts who advise, comment, or offer corrections to your Newtown Pentacle. Credit for identifying this craft goes out to them, and I wish that they would allow me to sing praise publicly, but certain conflicts of interest or oaths of secrecy demand that they must always be referred to as “anonymous sources”. In this case, the ultimate sources will be referred to as Daidalos and Icaros (hey, it is Astoria Park).

from wikipedia

It is in images, not in texts that Daedalus is seen with wings; many Greek myths appear to have been invented to make sense of known but inexplicable images. The most familiar literary telling explaining Daedalus’ wings is a late one, that of Ovid: in his Metamorphoses (VIII:183-235) Daedalus was shut up in a tower to prevent his knowledge of his Labyrinth from spreading to the public. He could not leave Crete by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all vessels, permitting none to sail without being carefully searched. Since Minos controlled the land and sea routes, Daedalus set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He tied feathers together, from smallest to largest so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like the wings of a bird. When the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly. When both were prepared for flight, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, because the heat of the sun would melt the wax, nor too low, because the sea foam would soak the feathers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Daidalos was actually stumped when the photos arrived, and neither of us could make any sense of the only marking- a string of tiny numbers on the hull- of this unidentified floating object. High flying, Icaros received the shots from the latter, and contacted high ranking members of a certain governmental entity. This entity- let’s just say that they have lots of boats and planes, and boats that are airports, and boats that carry nuclear missiles and stay underwater for months at a time, and a lot of the people who work for it wear white dress uniforms– claimed the ship as theirs!

from wikipedia

From the time of its inception, the military played a decisive role in the history of the United States. A sense of national unity and identity was forged out of the victorious Barbary Wars, as well as the War of 1812. Even so, the Founders were suspicious of a permanent military force and not until the outbreak of World War II did a large standing army become officially established.

The National Security Act of 1947, adopted following World War II and during the onset of the Cold War, created the modern U.S. military framework; the Act merged previously Cabinet-level Department of War and the Department of the Navy into the National Military Establishment (renamed the Department of Defense in 1949), headed by the Secretary of Defense; and created the Department of the Air Force and National Security Council.

The U.S. military is one of the largest militaries in terms of number of personnel. It draws its manpower from a large pool of volunteers; although conscription has been used in the past in various times of both war and peace, it has not been used since 1972. As of 2010, the United States spends about $692 billion annually to fund its military forces, constituting approximately 43 percent of world military expenditures. The U.S. armed forces as a whole possess large quantities of advanced and powerful equipment, which gives them significant capabilities in both defense and power projection.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What you have just seen, lords and ladies, shooting down the East River at high speed was described as a (JHSV) Joint High Speed Vessel.

A JHSV can comfortably carry 300 fully armed MARINES, or up to 600 in a pinch. Alternatively, it can move multiple main battle tanks- the astounding M1 Abrams. Just so you understand, 600 is near the low end of Battalion strength, and 600 U.S. Marines could probably claim a beachhead in Hell itself if they were asked to. It also has a landing pad for a helicoptor.

This ship is huge… but a helicoptor pad?



The JHSV program is procuring high-speed transport vessels for the Army and the Navy. These vessels will be used for fast intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment. The JHSV program merges the previous Army Theater Support Vessel (TSV) and the Navy High Speed Connector (HSC), taking advantage of the inherent commonality between the two programs.

JHSV will be capable of transporting 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ships will be capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2). Other joint requirements include an aviation flight deck to support day and night air vehicle launch and recovery operations.

JHSV is a commercial-design, non-combatant transport vessel, and does not require the development of any new technology. JHSV is being built to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) High Speed Naval Craft Guide. Systems onboard will be based on commercial ABS steel vessel rules. As such, it does not require the survivability and ability to sustain damage like the LCS. It has no combat system capability and no ability to support or use LCS mission modules. It will leverage non-developmental or commercial technology that is modified to suit military applications. Select military features include Aviation; Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and (Military) Intelligence; and Firefighting for the Mission Bay. NVR does not apply to any part of JHSV.

As a non-combatant sealift ship, the Navy variant of JHSV will be crewed by civilian mariners, either employed by or under contract to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. U.S. Army vessels will be crewed by Army craft masters. Both versions will require a crew of approximately 22-40 people, but will have airline style seating for more than 300 embarked forces and fixed berthing for approximately 100 more.

  • Primary Function: The JHSV Program will provide high speed, shallow draft transportation capability to support the intra-theater maneuver of personnel, supplies and equipment for the U. S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Army.
  • Builder: Austal USA
  • Propulsion: Water Jet
  • Length: 103 Meters (338 feet)
  • Beam: 28.5 meters (93.5 feet)
  • Displacement: 600 short tons
  • Draft: < 15 feet (4.57 meters)
  • Speed: 35-40 knots
  • Range: 1,200 nautical miles
  • Crew: 22-40 civilian mariners/U.S. Army craft masters
  • Homeport: No homeport – construction has yet to begin.
  • However… This is not a JHSV!!!

    This here is the M80 Stiletto.

    – photo by Mitch Waxman

    Check out this video at youtube which explains the Stiletto’s potential in great detail, and supplies 3D animation for operational scenarios.


    With the formal roll-out of the 88-foot Stiletto stealth ship and its cutting-edge “M-Hull” wave-damping design, that legacy takes another step forward. The Stiletto is part of Project WolfPac, which aims to test new concepts of shallow-water and riverine warfare organized around swarms of smaller, affordable ships linked by communications. The Stiletto can slip into shallow waters, launching inflatable boats and even UAVs while serving as a communications hub via its “electronic keel.” Best of all, the M-Hull significantly reduces the pounding its occupants take from waves – poundings that often result in back injuries that cut careers short, or leave sailors with lingering disabilities in later life.

    and from wikipedia

    The 88-foot (27 m) long vessel has a notable hull design, an M-shaped hull that provides a stable yet fast platform for mounting electronic surveillance equipment or weapons, or for conducting special operations. The hull design does not require foils or lifting devices to achieve a smooth ride at high speeds in rough conditions. Its shallow draft means the M80 Stiletto can operate in littoral and riverine environments and potentially allows for beach landings.

    The M80 Stiletto is equipped with four Caterpillar, Inc. C32 1232 kW (1652 HP) engines yielding a top speed in excess of 50 knots (90 km/h) and a range of 500 nautical miles (900 km) when fully loaded. It can be outfitted with jet drives for shallow water operations and beaching.

    It has a topside flight deck for launching and retrieving UAVs and a rear ramp that can launch and recover an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) or Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV).

    It weighs 45 tons unloaded, light enough that it can be hoisted onto a cargo ship, while still able to carry up to 20 tons of cargo in the 1,996 square feet (200 m2) of usable interior space. The ship is 88.6 feet (27.0 m) in length, with a width of 40 feet (12 m) and a height of 18.5 feet (5.6 m), yet has a draft of only 2.5 feet (0.8 m).

    The M80 Stiletto is the largest U.S. naval vessel built using carbon-fiber composite and epoxy building techniques, which yields a very light but strong hull. The prototype M80 Stiletto is expected to be in use in less than one year. Ships are expected to cost between $6 and $10 million

    6 Responses

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    1. mitch–well done. i wish i’d been in the park with you that day.


      June 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    2. […] June 5, 2010 in K-Sea, McAllister, Miller's Launch, Moran, New York harbor, Reinauer, USN, Vane Brothers, personal, photos, technology | Tags: K-Sea, McAllister, Miller's Launch, Moran, naval vessels, New York City, New York harbor, Reinauer, sixth boro, tugboats, Vane Brothers First, as a followup to Fleet Week, check what stealthy vessel Mitch  (Newtown Pentacle’s) caught over by the Sound end of the East River here. […]

    3. […] When I set out on my little walks, there is seldom a destination in mind. Literally wandering, obscure symbols and pseudo occultism guide my steps- I’ll follow a black cat, or merely adopt a roughly heliotropic path using my own shadow as compass. At the very end of May, my feet carried me toward Astoria Park and the notorious section of the East River known as Hells Gate. The odd craft, an “unidentified floating object” if you would, which sped past my lens required more than a small bit of detective work to identify- which was detailed in “from Hells Gate, loosed upon the world“. […]

    4. […] Note- This is a reblog of a Newtown Pentacle posting from June 5, 2010 titled: from Hells Gate, loosed upon the world […]

    5. […] passing beneath it. There’s that time I spotted an experimental combat vessel at Hells Gate, described here. The esoteric history of Hells Gate was discussed in this 2010 post, and the largest explosion in […]

    6. […] over the years on NY Harbor: the nose of a submarine being barged under the Williamsburg Bridge, an experimental military attack boat at Hells Gate, a space shuttle dangling from a crane, the list goes on and on. I’ve never […]

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