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If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable --Seneca

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool, Staten Island, New York

explored & photographed by: Shady

April 7, 2002. It was getting close to sundown, and we were headed back home after a day trip of wandering around some of the more shadowy corners of Staten Island when I spotted the sign... Arthur Kill Road. A little flag went up in the back of my brain... why was that road significant? Then I remembered- that was the road that lead to a tiny cemetery on the water's edge, overlooking the place known as the "Dead Pool", a creepy, watery grave in itself where old boats and ships are left to slowly sink into oblivion. We had never been there before and I was really curious about the place. So we made a detour down Arthur Kill in search of the Dead Pool. It didn't take us long to spot it, and we soon saw the miniscule graveyard tucked into a curve in the road as well. We pulled over to have a better look. I had no inkling that I was about to stumble onto something very weird and mysterious indeed...

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

 After picking my way through the crumbling tombstones, I headed the opposite way, almost magnetically drawn to the sight of the rusted and hulking vessels dipping into the watery depths beyond the reeds. Spoooooky! I wanted to get as close to the water's edge as possible, and started searching for a way to reach it through the thick tangle of reeds that towered higher than my head. After moving along the perimeter for a few minutes, I was about to give up when I spotted a very narrow split in the reeds. Moving closer, I discovered a very small opening that looked as if it made a ribbon of a path down to the water. I entered the labyrinth of reeds with a bit of concern, as the sun was rapidly beginning to dip and darkness was on the way. The path was too tempting to resist though, so I delved in. It was so narrow that the reeds brushed against each of my shoulders as I walked. The ground under my feet was wet and spongy and made squishing sounds with every step. After just a few steps, I looked back and realized that I could no longer even see the bank behind me, nor could I see what lay ahead, as the path was taking many twisting turns. It was like a blind maze. I pushed ahead anyway cause I was determined to get to the water's edge and get my pics of the creepy ship's graveyard before the light was gone. It seemed that I walked on for a good few minutes and had come very close, when I spotted something lying directly in the path ahead. Something square, and whitish, lying perfectly in the middle of the divided reeds. A piece of paper, but I couldn't make it out in the shadows. My curiosity was piqued, but there was no way that I could prepare myself for what I found when I got close enough to examine the thing...

The first thing I made out was a headline, in big, bold, black letters... GHOST SHIP KURSK. It actually took a second to register. Ghost... ship? Kursk?? Was this somebody's idea of a joke? I crouched down close to take a look. Before me, lying smoothed out on the marshy ground at the dead center of the path, was a newspaper page dated October 7, 2001... exactly six months earlier, to the day. Under the headline, it featured a photo and report of the doomed Russian submarine, the Kursk, being raised from the depths of it's watery tomb (for more about the story of the mysterious sinking of the ghostly Kursk, click here).

I honestly felt dumbfounded as I sat frozen in the crouched position, looking down at the yellowed old paper. How had it gotten here? The ground of the reed covered banks must be soggy with water at the high tides.... how could a piece of paper survive intact along the reed path in those conditions? Especially a piece of paper more than six months old? And on top of that, a piece of paper specifically featuring the raising of a "ghost ship" surrounded in tragedy and mystery like the infamous Kursk... all within full view of a whole "graveyard" of sinking ships?? It seemed impossible that it could be a coincidence. I wondered if someone had placed it there as a joke. But, I had barely managed to find the hidden 'path' through the reeds, and only stumbled onto the paper by enormous chance. And a piece of paper would not be able to survive long under these conditions, with the wind, the wetness, and even the multitude of seagulls in the area who would likely use it for nest-material. How would someone be able to predict that it would be found that very day, in order to leave it there like that? The hairs along the nape of my neck rose as I looked at the paper while listening to the far-off screeches of the gulls and the ominous metal-and-wood groaning of the slow-sinking ships.

I have no explanation for what I found. And the oddness of the discovery is something that has stayed with me ever since. I did consider taking the piece of paper with me, but something about that seemed wrong. I just took a photo of the thing and left it where I found it without touching it at all. It somehow seemed the right thing to do. If I didn't have the photos, I might wonder if I imagined the entire thing. 

But I know I didn't, and this incident was just one more reminder to me- the world is filled with things strange and unknown waiting just beyond the grasp of our understanding. And sometimes, if we are very lucky, we are privileged to get a quick glimpse into that shadowed realm that lies submerged below the radar of our consciousness, like a ghost ship sinking into the dark.

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