Now This Is Weird...
From ABC News, about a "submarine-like" vessel found in the East River just off Brooklyn, near the Queen Mary 2, this morning:
Authorities are questioning three men after pulling them from a submersible vessel in the East River in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to reports from ABC affiliate WABC.Here's a picture of the vessel:
The men were captured near the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in downtown Brooklyn, near the massive cruise ship the Queen Mary 2, just after 11 a.m.
The intent of the three men being held by police remains unclear, but the initial indication is that it did not appear to be terror-related. They have not been identified by police and no charges have been filed.
The orblike vessel, with a circular hatch on the top for entering and exiting, remains moored in the East River in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. It was equipped with oxygen tanks, WABC reported.
Normally, I'm not much of an alarmist, but this one doesn't smell kosher. I really can't think of any non-nefarious reasons someone would want to sail a vessel like that around New York, and drug-smuggling doesn't really make sense; you could just drive your load around the city. If they didn't find anything, maybe this was a dry run? I don't like to ethnically profile anyone, but if it turns out the "Sailors" have Middle Eastern names, I'm gonna say this could be the tip of something much bigger.
On the other hand, it could just be a bunch of guys doing guy things in a guy-like way.
Bell-ringer 1152 03 Aug: A commenter mentions that it kind of looks like a replica of the Turtle. There was one built a few years back; the web page describing it is here. It says it was last on the East Coast. Might someone have been doing something for a movie and there was a miscommunication with the police at the pier?
An updated story from the local ABC affiliate in NYC says that "no threatening devices or materials were found on board the vessel." So, if it was terroism-related, it looks like it was a dry run.
Update 1211 03 Aug: Here's another picture of the submersible:
The first Reuters report on the incident makes it look less likely to be terrorism related; it appears that there was one guy inside the submarine, and two others were towing it in an inflatable boat:
A police statement said there were two men on the inflatable boat and a third inside "a partially submerged vessel that appeared to be designed for underwater navigation."So, it looks like it's moving from a "terrorist dry run" angle to a "what the hell were those guys thinking" kind of story.
"All three males are expected to be charged with a number of violations and both vessels will be secured by the Harbor Unit," it said.
The submersible had a small round hatch on top and appeared to be a replica of the Turtle, an early submarine used in the U.S. Revolutionary War.
Update 1302 03 Aug: Never mind. It did turn out to just be guys doing guy things:
In the end, it turned out to be just a couple of guys fooling around with a historic replica - no link to terrorism whatsoever.Here's another picture that makes it look a lot more like the Turtle:
"File it under weird," Balboni said. "They appear to have put the sub in the water at Red Hook to see if it would float, and it got carried within the secured area by the current."
The Coast Guard responded to a report of a "semi-submersible device" in the water near the luxury liner off Pier 41 late Friday morning, said Petty Officer Seth Johnson.
The pedal-powered "turtle", a replica of a historic submersible vessel, was being towed by people in an inflatable rowboat.
Its owner was Philip Riley, of Brooklyn, the Coast Guard said.
The three men were issued two violations, one for trespassing on the safety zone around the Queen Mary 2, and the other for unsafe sailing because the submersible didn't have a system in place for avoiding collisions, the Coast Guard said.
The submersible was carried by strong currents to within 25 yards of the ship.
"If it had been at night, you could have imputed intent," Balboni said, "but they put this thing in the water in daylight in one of the most closely watched areas of the port." Homeland Security Department spokesman Laura Keehner confirmed "there was no nexus to terrorism."
Well, it enlivened an otherwise not-very-exciting day in submarine news.
Update 2142 03 Aug: It turns out that rather than just regular guys being guys, it was a "waterborne performance artist" who intentionally wanted to get close to the Queen Mary 2.
The man, Duke Riley, a heavily tattooed Brooklyn artist whose waterborne performance projects around New York have frequently landed him in trouble with the authorities, spent the last five months building the vessel as a rough replica of what is believed to have been America’s first submarine, an oak sphere called the Turtle, said to have seen action in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War.Fiberglass coating of a plywood boat is supposed to be pretty tricky, so the guy's really, really lucky he didn't drown. No "honorary submariner" designation for you, jackass!
Mr. Riley’s plan was also military, in a sense — though mostly metaphorical, given that he is an artist. He wanted to float north in the Buttermilk Channel to stage an incursion against the Queen Mary 2, which had just docked in Red Hook, the mission objective mostly just to get close enough to the ship to videotape himself against its immensity for a coming gallery show...
...In an interview at Pier 41 on Thursday afternoon, after Mr. Riley called a reporter to alert him to the planned excursion, the artist said he first became interested in building the submarine after reading about the Turtle in history books. (By some accounts, the original submarine’s attempt to attach an explosive to the bottom of a British warship failed, but the device detonated near the ship and caused the British to move their vessels. Other accounts say the sub never even launched.)
Mr. Riley built his eight-foot-tall submersible not from oak but from cheap plywood, coated with fiberglass and topped off with portholes and a hatch bought from a marine salvage company. Pumps in the bottom allowed him to add water for ballast or remove it.
Update 1028 04 Aug: Here's an article about the "artist" and his background, which includes a link to his website. The NYC art community is full of all sorts of interesting characters. (Note that I don't think they're all completely strange -- I have a cousin who's a working artist in the City.)