Ship Graveyards: Abandoned Ships, Boats and Shipyards

Ship and Boat Graveyards

(Images: Bob Jagendorf, cc-nc-3.0)

Ship graveyards are fewer today than in previous years due to more stringent environmental regulations, but there are still some haunting sites on the waterscape.  The Staten Island boat graveyard is one of the most famous, featuring on numerous sites including Opacity, Freshkills Park, NYC Go, Gadling and Hours of Darkness.  It’s a major draw for urban explorers, photographers and amateur maritime historians.  Among the condemned vessels is a former Staten Island ferry, just one of many among an evolving fleet that carried passengers between Lower Manhattan and Staten Island for generations.

(Images: NOAA, public domain; Serge Ouachée, cc-3.0; Hannes Grobe, cc-sa-3.0)

Other ship graveyards that have survived due to their remote location have ironically become tourist attractions.  The corroding factory ships at the abandoned whaling station Grytviken on South Georgia Island are often visited during Antarctic cruises, while the Aral Sea ship graveyards (below) are the most astounding – and environmentally concerning.

(Images: Evgeniy Zotov, cc-nc-nd-3.0; Missaliona, cc-sa-3.0)

During the 1960s the Soviets decided to divert two rivers feeding the Aral Sea to irrigate the desert for cotton production.  The result was a heavily contaminated basin littered with the rusting hulks of former fishing boats, a practically dead ecosystem and a decimated fishing industry.  The amount of water lost is said to be equivalent to the complete draining of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

(Images: Nicholas Mutton, cc-sa-3.0; howzey, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

For all their haunting appeal, abandoned ships can be hazardous objects and we never recommend climbing aboard.  But not all are riddled with pollutants and some, like disused fishing boats lying near the sea – have a wistful quality that harks back to an earlier time.  Offering a great subject for photographers, these old vessels go hand in hand with the lonely nature of the sea and a yearning for a tough yet more simple way of life.



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