Monday, February 13, 2012
Adventure #5: Dead Horse Bay
(Above: Can you believe this picture was taken in BROOKLYN?)
A couple of weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from a pen pal of mine who lives in Toronto. She said she'd be coming to New York this month and asked if I'd be in town. I think she probably had a pleasant cup of coffee in mind. I proposed an ADVENTURE.
Only a gutsy individual would hop in a car with a crazy writer she's never met face-to-face and set off for a secluded site known as Dead Horse Bay. But Lauren is a true Irregular, and she was eager for a glimpse of the "dark side" of New York. (Although I bet she had a roll of duct tape in her bag, just in case I turned out to be even nuttier than my blog would suggest.)
In retrospect, it would have been cruel to take anyone but a Canadian. The weather seems to turn brutal every time I seek adventure outdoors. It was bitterly cold yesterday, and only a hardy soul from the frozen north could have enjoyed (or survived) a day at the beach.
Dead Horse Bay lies on the southeastern shore of Brooklyn. It earned its name back in the nineteenth century when the beach was lined with horse-rendering and fish oil-processing plants. Until the twentieth century, it was accessible only by boat. Not that you would have wanted to visit in those days. The stench was said to be nauseating.
When cars replaced buggies on New York's streets, there were fewer horses to render. (Yuck.) So the marsh surrounding Dead Horse Bay became a garbage dump.
Today, the beach is covered in two centuries worth of trash. (And horse bones.) So why was I so eager to see it? Well one person's trash is an amateur archaeologist's home decor. Apparently visitors find all sorts of interesting bric-a-brac washed up on the shores of Dead Horse Bay. (Creepy old dolls. Lovely nineteenth-century glassware. Horse teeth.)
The most interesting thing I found was the bottle pictured below. The red, gelatinous contents looked like something out of a mad scientist's lab. Not exactly the kind of objet that I'd want to display on my mantle. The horseshoe crab shell could have made a nice conversation piece. (It was HUGE. The photo doesn't do it justice.) But after I'd spotted some of the revolting 21st century garbage littering the beach, (which would make you think twice about what you flush down the toilet), I wasn't in the mood for gathering souvenirs.
Our visit took place during high tide, and the pickings are said to be better when the water recedes. Unfortunately, low tide would have been around 6pm yesterday, and Dead Horse Bay is not a place you want to be after dark. It has to be one of the most isolated spots in all of New York. It's quiet and beautiful (aside from the garbage). The only person we encountered during the visit was a park ranger at the Floyd Bennett Field parking lot. By the time we reached the beach, he couldn't have heard us if we'd felt the need to scream.
So if you go to Dead Horse Bay, wear thick-soled boots (there's broken glass everywhere), take rubber gloves, and don't go alone. (Even though the bench shown above seems perfect for solitary contemplation.) And if you go during the winter, be sure to haul a Canadian along for the ride. (Kidding, Lauren. Thanks for keeping me company! You are a true adventurer.)
Click here for more about Dead Horse Bay, and check out the video below.