Geography: Hell Gate

Hell Gate

The swirling tides of the East River were famed for bedeviling sailors, starting with the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block in 1614. He gave the East River's midway point the name Helegat, meaning "bright passage." But as a place of whirlpools and dangerous rocks, the Anglicization that stuck was Hell Gate.

The Hell Gate contains the remains of countless ships. Most will forever remain nameless, while some have become legendary.

The H.M.S. Hussar Disaster

The H.M.S. Hussar was one such vessel. The Hussar was a British frigate of War, part of a fleet of privateers. It had left Charles Town carrying soldiers, slaves, rations and a vast fortune of Gold and Silver -- payroll for the British forces stationed in the colonies. On her way she attacked two ships, confiscating their treasure and sinking the. Then she met two sister ships. Both had been commissioned into battle so unloaded their cargoes onto her. As you can imagine, the Hussar was now heavily overloaded, and became easy prey for the the jaws of Hell Gate. Weighed down, she was unable to maneuver around the currents and smashed her bow into Pot Rock. She went down on November 23rd 1780 with 150 men and $15 000 000 worth of gold on board. Some believe the treasure still lies on the river bed today. A treasure, is now estimated to be worth up to $1.5 billion.

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