Dead Giraffe?! Weirdest Things Found in NYC Waters

Robot hand on beach
A helping hand: This prosthetic hand turned up at Great Kills Park beach in Staten Island. (Image credit: Nicole Haroutunian, photo courtesy of Underwater New York.)

Dead men tell no tales, but the waterways of New York City contain plenty of stories.

From shipwrecks to an upright dining table to a dead giraffe, a cornucopia of strange objects have been discovered in the shadowy depths of the Hudson and East rivers, New York Harbor and the city's surrounding waters.

A digital journal called Underwater New York publishes fictional stories, art and music inspired by these objects, which were found by researchers from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, commercial divers and other curious souls.

The project was inspired by a 2009 article in New York magazine called "Secrets of the Deep," which described some of the objects found in New York Harbor. [Shipwrecks Gallery: Secrets of the Deep]

"It struck me as really evocative as points of entry for fiction," said Nicki Pombier Berger, the founding editor of Underwater New York.As a summer writing project in 2009, Pombier Berger decided to pick something from the article and write a story about it, she told Live Science. Later, she and her friends Helen Georgas and Nicole Haroutunian created the online journal.

Here are a few of the odd things people have reportedly found in New York's waters.

Dead giraffe

Of all the things you'd expect to find in a city's port of call, a long-necked African mammal probably isn't one of them. The Army Corps of Engineers found the corpse of a giraffe in Lower New York Bay. The animal likely ended up in the water after trying to escape from a circus ship, according to New York magazine, possibly sometime in the early 1980s.

Old dining table

Somewhere in the East River, one of those old dining tables with metal grooves on the edges is standing upright, ready for a watery dinner party. "It's standing upright, totally free and clear. It makes me want to go down there with teacups and set it up," commercial diver Lenny Speregen told New York magazine.

Ice cream trucks

You scream; I scream; even fish scream for ice cream. In 1969, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation dumped a heap of Good Humor ice cream trucks off a barge near Atlantic Beach. Tires, cars, concrete slabs and other pieces of refuse were added to the pile, which was designed to serve as an artificial reef. Today, the area is a good place to catch lobsters and black sea bass, New York magazine reported.

1,600 silver bars

In 1903, a barge carrying 7,678 silver ingots capsized in the Arthur Kill, the harbor between Staten Island and New Jersey. Although about 6,000 of them were eventually recovered, the remaining 1,600 are still underwater somewhere, and are worth about $26 million today. To date, no one has located the missing silver bars, though not for lack of trying.

A robot hand

Sometimes, the curators of Underwater New York find mysterious objects themselves. That's what happened when one of them stumbled across a robotic hand at the ominously named Great Kills Park beach in Staten Island. The bizarre discovery begs the question: Somewhere in the wilds of Staten Island, is there a handless robot running around? [5 Reasons to Fear Robots]

Dead bodies

Everyone knows there's no better place to stow a dead body than in a major metropolitan river, and New York's waterways are no exception. When the bodies of murder victims or suicides enter the water in winter, they usually stay underwater until spring, when they decompose much faster, causing them to bloat with gas and bob to the surface. Talk about a nasty surprise.

Cement-eating creatures

Lots of critters call New York's waterways home, and some of them are truly bizarre. Take the naval shipworm, Teredo navalis, which starts out like a tiny clam but grows to be a giant, 4-foot-long (1.2 meters) worm that can devour wood. And then there are little crustaceans known as Limnoria tripunctata, which look like "tiny armadillos" and gnaw on concrete, according to New York magazine.

A shipwreck on a shipwreck

Hundreds of ships have been wrecked in the lower Hudson River, but perhaps the strangest find is a pair of shipwrecks near Yonkers, New York — a cabin cruiser lying on top of the remains of a much older ship, which was likely a 19th-century sailing ship, New York magazine reported.

Is it a kangaroo? Or a mouse? This strange toy was found in the sands of Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn. (Image credit: Adrian Kinloch, photo courtesy of Underwater New York)


One object seems to intrigue contributors to Underwater New York: a toy, found in Dead Horse Bay, that's a cross between a kangaroo and a mouse. The curators call it the site's "unofficial mascot." The creature is missing one ear and has a light-bulb heart.

Matthea Harvey, a poet, writer and professor at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, submitted a poem about it to Underwater New York: "This is what the Last Ones left us. / After the Era of Flood and after the Era / of Fire, we creep into the Central Clusters / and rifle through the rubble. From the top / of a cliff, two pink eyes and one pale ear beckon…"

Editor's Note: If you have a photo of a strange object found underwater you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Jeanna Bryner at

This article was updated at 5:27 p.m. ET July 16, to include Pombier Berger's full name, and to include a link to the Underwater New York website.

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.