People have long known about the Bermuda Triangle as being a dangerous place for ships and boats, but New York City has its own version know as Hell Gate. This name was earned because this narrow straight, where the swirling waters of the East River push against the churning ones of the Long Island Sound, had very dangerous conditions and claimed hundreds of ships over the years going way back to when the Dutch called the place New Amsterdam.
There were (and still are) many jagged rocks along the shoreline on both sides, and the clash of river and water from the sound make a whirlpool with no safe harbor that would have challenged Odysseus as much as the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy that legend says the ship destroying monsters Scylla and Charybdis called home.
Hell Gate remained a ship captain's nightmare over the years until the Army came in during the late 1800s, blasted rocks, and tried to make navigation of this waterway safer. One could say they were mostly successful, but the greatest disaster of all took place in June 1904 when a ferry known as the General Slocum caught fire in Hell Gate, floundered, and then eventually became grounded. Over a thousand people (many women and children) died that day, and the waterway once again lived up to its name.
On a recent very cold, bright winter's day, I went for a visit to see Hell Gate. You can get there easily by car or take the N train to Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Street; it is a quick walk to where Ditmars Blvd. ends and Astoria Park begins. Walking through the snow covered park there was a chill in the air, but the view is spectacular where the imposing Hell Gate railroad bridge hovers over the northern tip of the park.