Battleship Brooklyn: Mini Armada Attacks Superfund Site With Cameras

The Newtown Creek Armada explores the murky, polluted depths of a Brooklyn Superfund site with remote-controlled mini boats.

A toxic waterway brimming with oil, raw sewage, garbage, industrial wastewater, and volatile organic compounds probably isn't the first choice for a weekend outing.

But the creative minds behind The Newtown Creek Armada beg to differ.

For the site of their collaborative public art installation, artists Laura Chipley, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson Wright have chosen one of America’s most heavily polluted waterways, Newtown Creek, as their playground in September. Each Saturday and a sprinkling of Sundays in September, the channel that borders Brooklyn and Queens will transform into a boat pond from 1 to 4 p.m., when the public will steer nine remote-controlled crafts armed with underwater cameras, and microphones to document the area. The installation's purpose: to invite the public to explore the past, present, and future of a contaminated NYC waterway.

"We want visitors to experience the wonderful things about the creek—the history and fascinatingly weird landscape, and even the horrible things, like the environmental degradation," Chipley says. "We want visitors to consider the value of industrial waterways—for commerce, leisure and a place for plants and animals to live. We encourage them to pilot the boats in a way that allows the camera to capture footage of pollution, the other boats, and the surrounding area."

Planning for the project began in November 2011, when the three artists responded to the North Brooklyn Public Art Alliance's request for environmentally conscious artwork proposals. Each of the artists had previously worked on projects connected to the creek.

On September 8, the trio launched their fleet into its murky depths. Six of these boats are armed with GoPro cameras in waterproof cases to capture footage both underwater and above. Visitors can steer the craft for 15 minutes at a time, or simply watch videos from three kiosks at Whale Creek, an inlet off Newtown Creek where the boats will be located, that will display unique footage from contaminated parts of the creek uncovered by the mini-boat voyages.

While the footage is the central point of the project, the boats are each carefully crafted pieces of artwork. The nine ships range from 2.5 to 3-feet long and were constructed from a variety of items found near the creek including plastic trash, plants, and scrap metal. One of the boats even holds vinyl tubes filled with creek water samples on deck.

Because the creek was recognized as a Superfund site—defined by the the Environmental Protection Agency as "an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people"—on the National Priorities List in 2010, there will eventually be some form of clean-up. In the mean time, the Armada hopes to raise awareness among the general public.

"There will be significant efforts to clean the Newtown Creek up, but as the oil spill polluted the groundwater in the surrounding area, there are questions as to whether or not it can be completely rehabilitated," Chipley says. "Also, there is a problem with the illegal dumping of garbage and wastewater and the fact that the creek continues to function as a recepticle for raw sewage overflow. Ideally, encouraging the public to take stock in industrial waterways by inviting them to the waterfront will win greater public support for environmental regulation."

The final video piece will be shown in a gallery installation, and the artists plan to have outdoor projections in a public space as well. They hope to take their boats to explore other polluted bodies of water in New York and around the world.


First photo by Carolina Ferrares; bottom two by Laura Chipley

Creative Commons

National Tell a Joke Day dates back to 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was having a meeting with Vice-President, Henry Wallace. The two men were tired and depressed due to the stress caused by leading a country through world war.

During a lull in the meeting, Wallace said, "Frank, to cheer you up I have a joke I'd like to share."

"Let's have it, Henry," Roosevelt replied while ashing his cigarette.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Wallace asked. "Not sure," Roosevelt replied.

"To get to the other side," Wallace responded.

Roosevelt laughed so hard that the bourbon he was drinking sprayed out of his nose and onto the floor of the oval office.

RELATED: A comedian shuts down a sexist heckler who, ironically, brought his daughters to the show

The joke was so funny, and did such a great job at lightening both their moods, Roosevelt proclaimed that every year, August 16 would be National Tell a Joke Day.

Just kidding.

Nobody knows why National Tell a Joke Day started, but in a world where the President of the United States is trying to buy Greenland, "Beverly Hills, 90210" is back on TV, and the economy is about to go off a cliff, we could all use a bit of levity.

To celebrate National Tell a Joke Day, the people on Twitter responded with hundreds of the corniest dad jokes ever told. Here are some of the best.


The Judean date palm was once common in ancient Judea. The tree itself was a source of shelter, its fruit was ubiquitous in food, and its likeness was even engraved on money. But the plant became extinct around 500 A.D., and the prevalent palm was no more. But the plant is getting a second chance at life in the new millennium after researchers were able to resurrect ancient seeds.

Two thousand-year-old seeds were discovered inside a pottery jar during an archaeological excavation of Masada, a historic mountain fortress in southern Israel. It is believed the seeds were produced between 155 B.C. and 64 A.D. Those seeds sat inside a researcher's drawer in Tel Aviv for years, not doing anything.

Elaine Solowey, the Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, wondered if she could revive the Judean Date Palm, so in 2005, she began to experiment. "I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?" Solewey said.

Keep Reading Show less

There's been an uptick in fake emotional support animals (ESAs), which has led some airlines to crack down on which animals can and can't fly. Remember that emotional support peacock?

But some restrictions on ESAs don't fly with the Department of Transportation (DOT), leading them to crack down on the crack down.

Delta says that there has been an 84 percent increase in animal incidents since 2016, thanks in part to the increase of ESAs on airplanes. Last year, Delta airlines banned pit bulls and pit bull-related dog breeds after two airline staff were bitten by the breed while boarding a flight from Atlanta to Tokyo.

"We must err on the side of safety. Most recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal last week. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs, but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk," Delta told People regarding the new rule.

Keep Reading Show less
via Liam Beach / Facebook

Trying to get one dog to sit still and make eye contact with a camera for more than half a second is a low-key miracle. Lining up 16 dogs, on steps, and having them all stare at the camera simultaneously is the work of a God-like dog whisperer.

This miracle worker is Liam Beach, a 19-year-old animal management graduate from Cardiff, Wales. A friend of his dared him to attempt the shot and he accepted the challenge.

"My friend Catherine challenged me to try to get all of my lot sat on the stairs for a photo. She said, 'I bet you can't pull it off,' so I thought 'challenge accepted,'" he said, accoriding to Paws Planet.

Keep Reading Show less
via Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Americans on both sides of the political aisle can agree on one thing: our infrastructure needs a huge upgrade. While politicians drag their feet on high-speed rail projects, fixing bridges, and building new airports, one amazing project is picking up steam.

The Great American Rail-Trail, a bike path that will connect Washington state to Washington, D.C., is over 50% complete.

The trail is being planned by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit that is working with local governments to make the dream a reality.

Keep Reading Show less