Dockbuilders from Latham Sand & Gravel pulled some puzzling artifacts up from the New Suffolk muck earlier this month while they were putting in a new bulkhead at the New Suffolk Waterfront to replace one that was washed out during Hurricane Sandy.
Members of the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund, which owns the land at the end of New Suffolk Avenue that once belonged to the first submarine base in the country, were initially ecstatic at the discovery, said Waterfront Fund member Shannon Simon as she helped spiffy up the property last Thursday afternoon. They wondered if these could be pieces of an early submarine, or even possibly a piece of the U.S.S. Holland, the first submarine in the U.S. Navy’s fleet, which was stationed in New Suffolk from 1899 to 1905.
Ms. Simon said members of the Waterfront Fund brought the pieces to Joe Polashock, a welder whose credits include work on the Sept. 11 memorial at Ground Zero, who lives around the corner from the Waterfront Fund’s site.
Mr. Polashock pored over plans for early submarines, looking for a possible match between the parts found at the waterfront, but concluded they are not part of a submarine.
He said in an interview Monday afternoon that he believes the artifacts are parts of a single piston steam engine, including a boiler and a flywheel, mounted horizontally on the dock, which could have been used to help launch the submarines. He said he remembered seeing the boiler submerged in the water outside the rocks surrounding the boat basin when he was a boy.
Mr. Polashock is now searching for historical photographs to see if he can find one that has the gearworks in it.
Ms. Simon said the Waterfront Fund plans to keep the artifacts, which include a large gear that may have once held a belt, and a perforated metal basket with two compartments whose diameter is slightly larger than the gear, and a flat piece of rusting metal that could have once been a piece of deck hardware. One other badly mangled hunk of metal sits near the travel lift ramp used when the site belonged to the Goldsmith & Tuthill Shipyard, behind the fence around the dockbuilders’ work site.
Since then, speculation about what the parts could be has run rampant in New Suffolk. Could it be part of an old steam shovel? Could it have been lying around the boatyard rusting until a manager got tired of looking at it and ordered it thrown in the marina to help stabilize the bulkhead? The jury’s still out. Do you have any ideas?