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Staten Island may be the least popular of the Five Boroughs, but it has a rather unique attraction. The Staten Island boat graveyard is a marine scrapyard also known by other names like "Tugboat graveyard," "Arthur Kill Boat Yard", and "Witte Marine Scrap Yard." It is one of the spookiest places in NYC, and if there were ghosts, they would certainly be there.

The Staten Island boat graveyard is an eerie and intriguing site. But there are far, far larger shipbreaking yards in the world (particularly in South Asia). India's Alang Shipbreaking Yard is the largest of all shipbreaking yards and is where the largest of ocean-going ships go to die.


Staten Island Boat Graveyard - NYC's Forgotten Ship Dumping Ground

This is a place where boats go to die and is hard to believe that this place is still within the city limits of New York City. The Staten Island boat graveyard is officially called the Donjon Iron and Metal Scrap Processing Facility and is a dumping ground for old wrecked barges, decommissioned ferries, and tugboats.

  • Location: Arthur Kill, West Shore, Staten Island
  • Name: Arthur Kill Is An Anglicization Of The Dutch Name "achter kille"
  • Founded: In The 1930s

The boat scrapyard was founded by John J. Witte in the 1930s and is something similar to an automobile salvage yard. Parts from old boats are salvaged and sold.

Many of the vessels have sunken and are sitting partially submerged in the mud and shallow water. There they wait until they are dismantled or otherwise salvaged.

It was not originally intended for the vessels to become so decrepit. The operation was meant to harvest the old vessels for anything of value but the shipbreakers couldn't keep pace with the large influx of boats - especially after it became a dumping ground for old dinghies.

Some ships have fallen into such disrepair that they have been left to rot in the murky tidal waters.

Related: 25 Rare Pictures Of Sunken Ships Most Have Never Seen Before

The Vessels Of The Staten Island Boat Graveyard

It is reported to have around 100 ships and boats in 2010 according to WNYC News - although that is down from its peak of around 400 vessels.

  • Number of Vessels: Around 100 Ships and Boats in 2010
  • Peak: Around 400 Vessels

Many of these vessels are historic and would be a great accidental marine museum had it not been for being a hazardous industrial site. Notable vessels that are (or were) there include the USS PC-1264 (a World War 2 submarine chaser) and the Abram S. Hewitt (a New York City Fire Department fireboat).

On the ship, the USS YOG-64 is an ex-Navy gas tanker posted near the Bikini Atoll during the Operation Sandstone nuclear weapons tests back in 1948. Today it is possible for intrepid divers (with deep pockets) to go out and dive the sunken nuclear fleet at Bikini Atoll.

Visiting The Staten Island Boat Graveyard

Unfortunately, the State Island Boat Graveyard is closed to the public for safety reasons - understandable given the hazards of so many rusting, rotting, and decaying old boats and ships. Some of the wrecks are very deteriorated.

  • Access: Closed Off For Public Safety Reasons
  • Tours: None

The site is hard to reach and access is forbidden. There are "No Trespassing" and "Beware Of Dog" signs - although this hasn't dissuaded some photographers and artists explore the decaying ships with kayaks and other boats.

As one article put it, "Reaching the Marshy spot on southwestern Staten Island where good boats go to die requires a car, sturdy footwear, and a willingness to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Related: Where Ships Go To Die: The Massive Gadani Ship Breaking Yard

Watch The Graves Of Arthur Kill Documentary

Perhaps the best way to learn about this NYC boat graveyard is with the 32-minute documentary Graves of Arthur Kill. It is a film featuring up-close and very rate footage of some of the graveyard's most remarkable vessels. It takes people into a world of the little-known-about ship graveyard and a piece of NYC's maritime history one will not find on any tourist map.

  • Filmmakers: Kane and Van Dorp

The filming of the documentary was carried out in 2012 on a rowboat that the reporters maneuvered around corroding hulks. It was no easy feat as there are plenty of hazards lurking just below the surface - the rowboat nearly sank after being punctured by a rivet.