The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

swinging and plunging

with one comment

It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too long ago, a humble narrator left HQ and soon found himself at Hells Gate. One always finds it amazing how alone you can feel when surrounded by literally thousands of people, but there you go. Melancholy and regret notwithstanding, it was decided to sit down and watch the surrounding city for a spell from a stationary vantage point.

“Winter is coming” is what was on my mind.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Off in the distance – a tugboat was towing a barge down the East River from the direction of Flushing Bay, and since there was literally nowhere else for me to go, I sat and waited for it to transit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tug was the McAllister Girls. The fuel barge it was towing was clearly empty, given how high it was riding in the swirling maelstroms of the Hells Gate section of the estuarine East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The background was provided by the DEP’s Wards Island plant, where centrifugal machinery separates a pestilence of filth out of a watery solution which the sewer people refer to as “honey” but the rest of just call “sludge.” In NY Harbor, it is difficult to avoid fecal matter, as the harbor is full of it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The currents in this section of the river, spanned by both Triborough and Hell Gate bridges, are notorious and powerful. Once, Hells Gate was a breaker of ships and consumer of lives, before the Army Corps of Engineers exploded the underwater geology which promulgated the formation of whirlpools and ripping tides.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even today, it takes a bit of skill – and a powerful set of engines – for Mariners to conquer the cross currents and tidal action of Hells Gate. It’s nowhere close to the historical force of water, spoken about with awe and respect by sailors in the historical record, but this stretch of the river is still fairly treacherous.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

McAllister Girls, of course, managed Hells Gate with little trouble. The tug and barge continued along, entering the east channel of the river and continuing along to the south. Likely, she was headed for Kill Van Kull or Arthur Kill to drop off the empty barge and begin the process of moving another full one to some farm of coastal fuel tanks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was all pretty depressing though. Winter is coming.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

October 10th, 2015
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm

One Response

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  1. […] “night into day” shots in “breathing marble.” Back in Astoria, “swinging and plunging” showcased some passing maritime action at Hells Gate, and showcase a cool car spotted at the […]


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