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About 35 miles east of Montauk, N.Y. at a depth of 30 feet, lies the wreck of the oil tanker Lightburne, her steel hull encrusted in barnacles and algae. In 1939 the oil tanker blanketed in dense fog, ran aground right in front of the Block Island Southeast Lighthouse. Over time, the sunken Lightburne has attracted a variety of sea life – anemones, skate and flounder, mussels and several species of shark call the artificial reef home.
Lightburne aground 1939. photo: Anon
For the last year, scientists from the New York Aquarium have been studying and documenting the Lightburne and other local wrecks to help with designs of a new $150-million shark exhibit.
Port Jackson Shark. photo: Wikipedia
From the New York Times: “There’s a lot of other oil tankers, barges, freighters that are part of the turn-of-the-century boom in shipping and navigation off of New York,” said Caleb McClennen, the conservation society’s director of marine conservation and one of the divers on the Lightburne. “There’s also an incredible amount of marine life that has bloomed on these wrecks.”
Lightburne wreck/reef. photo: Sea Turtle Charters
From the New York Times: “We’re using the information not only to recreate the context that visitors will walk through, but also the habitat where the fish are, because we want to be as true to the place as we can,” said Sue Chin, chief architect at the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the aquarium and most of New York City’s zoos.
Architectural rendering: The Portico Group
The New York Aquarium’s “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit is scheduled to open in 2015 – the main tank will sport 115 native species of fish and 25 species of shark; such as whitetip and blacktip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, sand tiger sharks, nurse sharks, Port Jackson sharks, and wobbegongs. The new exhibit’s 500,000-gallon tank will also house many rays, sea turtles, and thousands of schooling fish. A second tank will feature a “shipwreck” to illustrate how our industrial past is entwined with our biological present.
From the World Conservation Society: Aquarium Director Jon Forrest Dohlin said, “We are creating an unforgettable experience that will celebrate the oceans and marine life, educate future conservationists, and advance WCS efforts to protect seascapes in New York and across the globe.”
The Sydney Aquarium. photo: Johnny Jet
Ocean Wonders: Sharks! is part of A Sea Change, a 10-year public-private partnership between WCS, the City of New York and the Borough of Brooklyn. Their collective goal is to re-imagine WCS’s New York Aquarium and to renew WCS’s commitment to local marine conservation, spurring new efforts to protect marine life in New York Harbor.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee