The General Slocum, June 1904
Until 9/11, the sinking of the General Slocum was the worst disaster in New York City history. On June 15, 1904, on its way to Eaton’s Neck, Long Island for a Lutheran church picnic, the Slocum caught fire in the East River, somewhere around 90th Street. Faulty safety equipment and a poorly trained crew led to more than a thousand dead out of a passenger list of just over 1,300.
The HMS Hussar, November 1779
On November 24, 1779, the HMS Hussar — a British dispatch ship carrying a sizable portion of the Red Coats’ payroll (in gold!) — attempted to sail through the treacherous (and aptly named) Hells Gate, a strait separating Manhattan and Long Island. It didn’t work. Despite denials from the British that the Hussar was loaded with gold, treasure hunters kept looking for at least a century. Now, though, it is thought the Hussar is buried under Bronx landfill.
The SS Normandie, 1942
The SS Normandie was a luxury cruise ship (the largest turbo-electric ever built!) that was converted into a troop carrier in 1942, during WWII. But the conversion didn’t go very smoothly. While docked at the New York Passenger Ship Terminal at Pier 88, the Normandie caught fire and capsized into the Hudson; though salvage efforts were made, she was eventually scrapped in 1946.
The Turtle, 1776
The mighty Turtle was the first-ever submarine used in battle, though many said it looked more like a clam. Brought into the world in 1775, by Connecticut patriot David Bushnell, the Turtle was a one-man craft designed for surreptitiously attaching explosives to the hulls of enemy ships — not the safest of jobs. Sadly, the Turtle was abandoned in 1776, just off Liberty Island, in a failed attack on the dastardly English.