As a kid I had trouble sleeping some nights because of this one recurring dream. I would find myself treading water in a large, seemingly chlorinated pool. I would look around and see that it was just a normal pool, exactly the same kind as the ones spotting the suburban wastes of my native Northern Virginia. Then I would look down, and see that the pool actually had no bottom, and the water just beneath my feet was a murky as any river or bay. Kelp would lick the soles of my feet, and I would get a strange sense that something was moving. And then, suddenly: DINOSAURS. T. rexes would poke their giant, shrieking heads out of the green opacity, and I would jump out of bed, crying.
Ever since I’ve had a fear of water when I can’t see through it to the bottom. So when I read that the New York Harbor is now more than 50 feet deep when it used to be only 10 to 20, every muscle in my body clenched. No dinosaurs down there, but still, that’s deep.
Over the last 150 years, the city has slowly deepened the harbor, which was already one of the deepest natural harbors in the world. Back in 1884, the city began dredging the harbor to make way for ships that kept getting bigger and bigger.
The Army Corp of Engineers has taken to dumping the mud off the shore of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, sometimes reclaiming a little bit of it to rebuild fish habitats or cap contaminated underwater dump sites. By the time the Corps’ current harbor deepening program wraps up in 2014, it will have moved 30 Empire State Buildings’ worth of mud.
How exactly does one deepen the harbor? With lots and lots of explosives, that’s how. And once all that stone has been “loosened,” dredging boats come through and sweep it all up.
According to Untapped Cities, New York’s dredging boat of choice is called the “T-Rex.”
(h/t: Untapped Cities)