Seaport Museum’s Historic Ships Stay Afloat During Hurricane Sandy

October 31st, 2012

The Ambrose, built in 1907 as a floating lighthouse to guide ships safely from the Atlantic Ocean to the New York Bay, was one of the seven ships to outlast Hurricane Sandy's fury. Photo courtesy of Seaport Museum

The South Street Seaport Museum‘s historic ships docked at Pier 16 weathered the storm.

The seven ships, some more than 100 years old, “rose and then settled back down with the surge,” and were undamaged during Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc on other entities at the Seaport, according the museum’s president, Susan Henshaw Jones.

Henshaw Jones also lauded the work of the Seaport’s staff in preparing the ships to outlast Sandy’s punishing winds and pounding waves.

“All the vessels rode out the hurricane Sandy and the surge with very little difficulty, thanks to the days of preparation and a right on-the-money calculation about the amount of slack needed for the lines securing the Peking, the Wavertree, and the Ambrose to Pier 15 and Pier 16,” said Henshaw Jones, who is also the Ronay Menschel director of the Museum of the City of New York. the Waterfront director, Captain Jonathan Boulware, his crew and volunteers logged about 350 an hours over the weekend to secure the ships ahead of the storm. “They fully understood that their work was urgently necessary.”

The Seaport Museum itself, located at 12 Fulton Street, experienced five feet of flooding on its first floor, where the lobby, ticket counter, food stand and gift shop are  located. Luckily, none of the exhibits were harmed. The Seaport Museum, however, will remain closed for the next several days as it awaits power to be fully restored to Lower Manhattan.

Other areas of the historic Seaport district, though, were not as fortunate. Bowne & Co. Stationers, which first opened its doors in 1775 and resides within one of the buildings owned by the Seaport Museum on Water Street, suffered some damage to its presses and type from the 2 and a half feet of floodwater that rushed in. The South Ferry terminal, less than a mile from the Museum was also severely flooded.

The East River was abnormally high. Indeed, low tide was imperceptible given the flows of water that were sent in our direction by the storm,” Henshaw Jones said before underscoring once again that without her staff and volunteers, the damage to the Museum and its ships could have been uch worse. “We are extremely grateful for the hard work of our staff and volunteers who went to great lengths to prepare us for Sandy.”

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3 Responses to “Seaport Museum’s Historic Ships Stay Afloat During Hurricane Sandy”

  1. Miles D. Mac Mahon of the Veteran Wireless Operators Assn. Says:

    We of the VWOA appreciate your efforts in preserving the Ambrose and other South Street Seaport ships during the grave threat posed by Sandy.

    We hope that the damage sustained shore side will not become too great a burden. Your mission in presenting the history of maritime New York is vital to memorializing the traditions and history of our great city.

  2. New York’s South Street Seaport Museum – the Good and Really, Really Bad News | Old Salt Blog – a virtual port of call for all those who love the sea Says:

    [...] only good news was that the seven historic vessels at the South Street Seaport Museum rode out the storm without damage.  “All vessels rode out the hurricane Sandy and the surge [...]

  3. Captain Colin Smith M.Sc Says:

    I would be interested to know what mooring arrangements were used to allow the ships to ride out any groundswell reaching the museum wharves. I don’t believe the wind was all that strong around Manhatten Island, and of course it would be a tidal surge lasting several hours, rather than a tsunami-like wave. I recall riding out a Typhoon in Yokohama around 1970. Most of the ships took pilots and headed out to sea, or at least to anchor or ‘jog’ in Tokyo Bay. My Captain was a really experienced seaman, and he judged that the eye would not pass over us, so he decided to stay in and get the first gangs the next morning. I remember we doubled up on all the moorings, ran the anchor chain around the bollard ashore, and used a heavy ‘insurance wire’ aft. There was a small Cypriot coaster in the berth astern of us. Her crew would walk along the dock, see what we were doing, and go back and do the same. That night she bucked and plunged like a mad racehorse alongside, while the Master slept soundly in his bunk, unperturbed. At daybreak we resumed loading while the rest of the ships headed back in. I always admired Captain Johnny Boyle for his seamanship, and used it myself in later life.


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