Long Island, New York City's famous suburb, borders New York Harbor, one of the nation's busiest ports. The island is bounded to the south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by Long Island Sound. Navigating the island's waters has always been a challenge owing to quickly changing currents, hidden shoals and the weather, including high winds, tall waves and hurricanes. A large number of shipwrecks, some dating back to the 1700s, have been identified in Long Island's coastal waters, giving the area the nickname, "Wreck Valley."
In 1781, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, the British frigate H.M.S. Colluden was blown aground while on the lookout for French blockade runners. Its remains were discovered in 1971 and can been seen by divers in the shallow waters off Colluden Point. Another 18th century shipwreck, the H.M.S. Hussar has disappeared. The Royal Navy frigate was carrying the payroll of the British army along with American prisoners when it struck a rock in 1780 and quickly sank. The area was later dynamited, dredged and filled in, and the wreck is believed to be buried within landfill under the streets of the Bronx.
Full Steam Ahead
The Lexington, a luxury paddle-wheel steamer built by Cornelius Vanderbilt, was hailed for its speedy ferrying of New York's elite to resorts in Connecticut and Rhode Island. The steamer was carrying 150 passengers when it caught fire and sank in Long Island Sound in 1840, leaving only four survivors. A team of marine researchers discovered the wreck in 1983. The Black Warrior was a sail and steam driven side-wheeler that carried cargo, mail and passengers between New York, New Orleans and Havana, Cuba. It ran aground on Rockaway Bar in 1859, but all aboard were saved. Attempts to tow the ship proved futile and the ship eventually broke apart and sank.
Schooner Sinks Oceanliner
The Oregon was a 1,500-passenger capacity luxury ocean liner and one of the first to be illuminated by electricity. The ship was completing its trip from Liverpool, England to New York when it was struck by a schooner, the Charles R. Morse, about five miles off Fire Island. The crew was able to keep the ship afloat for eight hours during which the entire crew and its passengers – a total of 845 people – were rescued. The wreck of the Oregon, which is found about 21 miles southeast of Fire Island inlet, is considered one of the northeast coast's best dive sites. The schooner's remains were never found.
Casualties of War
Cargo ships and pleasure craft are not the only shipwrecks discovered in the waters off Long Island. The armored cruiser U.S.S. San Diego was reportedly torpedoed by the German submarine U-156 on July 19, 1918. It was the only major warship lost by the U.S. in World War I. The wreck lies upside down 13.5 miles south of Fire Island Inlet. The U.S.S. Turner was torpedoed twice before sinking on January 3, 1944. The boat rests five miles outside of Debs Inlet. The German submarine U-853 was the last U-boat sunk in U.S. waters during World War II. It lies on the ocean floor west of Block Island.