Hell Gate, just the sound of it brought many a man to their knees in fear. Only a small stretch of the East River between New York Harbor and Long Island Sound, for centuries it conjured up images of a treacherous journey through whirlpools large enough to swallow ships and with wild rapids churning up giant standing waves and hidden rocks ready to rip the bottoms out of ships.
Originally named by the Dutch when New York was Nieuw-Amsterdam, Hell Gate or Hellegat was first navigated in 1614 by the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block. Since that time hundreds of ships have sunk in the narrow channel. Some historians believe that “one in 50 ships trying to run the gauntlet of Hell Gate was either damaged or sunk” with up to 1,000 ships running aground annually in Hell Gate prior to the 1850’s.
One of the most famous to have ended up at the bottom of Hell Gate was the British Revolutionary War frigate H.M.S. Hussar in 1780. Laden with millions of dollars (at the time) in gold and silver and over 150 men, she struck a rock and quickly sank. Read more