Monday, Dec 21, 2009
The remains of the immigrant ferryboat Ellis Island, sunk at its slip at the island for more than 40 years, have been raised and removed, clearing the area for future use by other boats.
The ferry, which was built in 1904, shuttled new Americans off Ellis Island, serving the immigration station until its closure in November of 1954. The ferry and the station then lay abandoned until the island was made a part of Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. Unfortunately, the ferry sank in its berth during a storm in 1968 before it could be preserved.
After 40 years underwater, the ferry had deteriorated to the point where it couldn’t be raised in one piece or salvaged. Because of its condition and the potential hazard to other vessels, the NPS decided to remove what was left of the storied ferry and open the slip for future boat traffic.
During the removal operations, which began in late October and lasted approximately two months, underwater archeologists, a maritime historian, and other cultural resource experts monitored the pieces that were raised and set aside some for further documentation. These pieces are currently stored in a safe location within the park, awaiting additional study.
When the process began there was some question as to whether all of the metal parts of the ferry would be so corroded that they would fall apart during the removal process. However, unlike the hull which came up in ragged, rusting chunks, the boiler, two propellers and two rudders came up largely intact.
The sight of these pieces being raised out of the water by the barge-mounted crane drew the attention of anyone fortunate to be within view. Yet the process was not without it moments of tension according to John Hnedak, deputy superintendent for Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, who noted that several cables snapped along the way from the weight of some of the materials.
Once the ferry and the remains of the dock where it had been moored were removed, the entire slip was dredged.