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Coney Island Creek, Brooklyn, NY
Lat: 40°34'47.38"N Lon: 73°59'23.50"W
It was 1967 when a Brooklyn Naval Yard welder named Jerry Bianco had the vision to build a submarine. He would use it to do the improbable if not impossible task of raising the Andrea Doria, an ocean liner sunk a decade earlier in the deep, cold waters off Nantucket Island. It would take him three years to construct the vessel in a shipyard on Coney Island Creek where, in 1970, he invited friends and members of the New York City press to the submarine’s christening launch. This was going to be a big deal.

It’s a famously bittersweet urban tale; this story of Bianco’s yellow submarine, a vessel that to this day sits in tidal waters between Brooklyn and Coney Island. If you visit at low tide you can see most of its 40’ length exposed above the waterline. At high tide, only the conning tower remains visible. Either way, it’s still impressive, because, after all, it’s a submarine that a man built himself.

I mean, wow. But, no lie, I had the same idea when I was eight. I just didn’t know there was something productive I could do with my sub. I had a friend named Troy whose father installed aluminum siding and we figured we could use the siding scrap to build my dream-vessel. See, at that age, I was absolutely mad for Jacques Cousteau; I loved everything oceanographic. I still do, of course, but times have changed and bathyspheres don’t occupy my imagination so much. I still yearn for the days of SEALAB and Cousteau’s diving saucers but now, I leave it all to WHOI.EDU (check them out!).

But, Jerry Bianco was bold—and he could weld. So, the man built a submarine, which, as you can see, despite rust and barnacles, is still quite handsome and impressive. When the tide recedes you can really see how expertly crafted it is, how distinctly designed, and if you climb up on top of it, it’s easy to lump Mr. Bianco into the same category of visionaries and explorers who have always vaulted forth from the streets of New York. Those other guys were just dealing with matters more predictable than birthing a submarine.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the sub sank at the launching. The crane operator lowering the vessel into Coney Island Creek didn’t follow Bianco’s specific instructions and put the thing into the water before the ballast was adjusted. The sub flipped, sank into the muck, and the financial backing Jerry was dependent upon to fulfill his mission hit the road. With his dreams now living at the bottom of the Creek, Jerry went back to work at the Navy Yard.

I admire Jerry Bianco. I was proud to tell his story. I only hope that when I’m his age, there’s some kind of physical evidence of my bold thinking left behind—and in the waters off New York City would suit me just fine.
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