I wonder how many motorists crossing the Triborough Bridge (renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) are oblivious to the fact that a lost treasure estimated today to be worth around twenty-five million dollars lies beneath them in the murky waters.

The bridge spans a narrow water channel called Hell’s Gate, located in New York’s East River separating Astoria, Queens, Randall’s island and Ward’s island now joined by landfill. The name is a corruption of the Dutch word Hellegat and attributed to the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who was the first person to navigate the channel in 1614.

Although hundreds of vessels have gone down in the strait, the event described in this blog post took place in 1780 when a British frigate the H.M.S. Hussar sank in the channel.

The Hussar was a British Royal Navy vessel accommodating two hundred sailors and ten American prisoners from a camp in England, who were to be bartered for the release of ten captured British soldiers. In addition to carrying essential supplies and ammunition, the frigate was also carrying several chests containing gold and silver coins to pay British troops stationed in New York.

While anchored in New York’s Manhattan, the ship’s captain got wind of news that a fleet of French warships, located about one hundred and fifty miles away in the Rhode Island area, was intent on capturing the Hussar and lay claim to the gold and silver on board.

The captain decided to move the ship to a more secure location in Connecticut a few miles up the coast to the north east. The best route was to sail parallel to Long Island’s south shore, but southerly winds often caused grounding problems forcing the ships further out to sea and exposure to attack, so the captain decided to navigate the long avoided East River.

In spite of the warnings from his newly hired New York pilot that the draft of the Hussar would cause the frigate to strike any number of the rocks submerged just below the surface, the captain felt he had no choice but to proceed.

As the ship entered Hell’s Gate, where the waters of the Long Island Sound mixed with those of the East River, the strong swirling currents forced the frigate into a granite ledge just below the surface that was made invisible by the churning silt-laden water. The panicked captain took over the ship’s wheel in an attempt to steer the ship to Stony Point Beach in the South Bronx without success. Thankfully, everyone on board was able to escape. In fact, as the last lifeboat left the Hussar, the vessel went straight down seventy-five feet to the bottom of the river along with the payroll.

It’s a pity the captain was unaware that at certain points in the tide cycle the waters briefly go slack, making the area as calm as a lake. High tide in the Long Island Sound is over three hours behind that of Lower Manhattan.

Many attempts have been made since 1780 to recover the treasure, but it has never been found. And, according to many, there are numerous factors leaving no doubt that the treasure is still in the river near Astoria Park. I’m surprised, with the up-to-date recovery efforts used today, that there has been no attempt to recover the lost treasure.

12 Comments on Lost treasure still lies in New York’s East River at Hell’s Gate

  1. Irwin says:

    Lets try to put together Hussar recovery group

  2. Julie says:

    I’m in. If they can put a map together of the sunken titanic this should be doable!

  3. Erika says:

    It’s been tried, but not successfully. Remember, it’s a more complicated matter than finding the sunken ship. As stated on greathunt.com: “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detonated 25 tons of dynamite on the river bottom in 1876 to make Hell Gate more navigable”; shifting shorelines also contribute to the difficulty. Whatever sunk in 1780 is going to be a widely scattered mess. Still – the possibility of finding gold always holds allure, even in small quantities. Irwin and Julie, count me in! :)

  4. Tony says:

    I have been wondering about this ship for a while, that bounty inside the ship is definitely something to search for But erika is right that ship is likely to be scattered all over the river bed. There was one website that stated a cannon with live ammo was found and it was from the hussar. That team that found the cannon likely found it in a spot near the hull of the ship

    And count me in. Ill do some research if you’d like

  5. Tony says:

    there is a problem with finding it other than the TNT dropped there. It was made of fir lumber instead of oak so by now the wood has become extremely weak. Just putting like 40 lbs on the old ship will likely make it crumble. The sand in the river might be covering the ship as well so that could be why it’s still missing. I mean like it sunk there 333 years ago. So that TNT likely buried it in tons of debris. If you want to talk here’s my email address: shadowdragon251@hotmail.com

  6. Guy says:

    Here’s a little something about the infamous Hell Gate treasure… My friend’s sister’s friend’s ex-husband (last name was Pentagast) worked for Con Ed as an underwater welder. As the story goes, his team was working under the Hell Gate Bridge around ’77 or ’78 and they discovered a shipwreck with some sort of booty on it. There was a lot of bureaucratic squabbling going on about this discovery. Even the mob tried to muscle in on a piece. He wound up getting something like a million dollars or more (that was a lot back then) and the State confiscated the findings in the end. We’re not sure if it was gold, it could have been the aforementioned cannon. All we know is that the guy flat-out left my friend’s sister’s friend not long after. We’re looking into this story further and will keep you posted ~

    Tony: Can you find that article again?

  7. Guy says:

    Update #2: Yes, it WAS gold and silver (not sure if coins or bars or both), the State and the mob were muscling in on the claim and he wound up vanishing into a witness protection program. Hmmmmm…

  8. Eric says:

    I’m from Astoria. I heard this legend a millions time from many. Count me in.

  9. A g says:

    Years ago, many years ago when I was a teen I purchased an Los seamens chest in a thrift store somewhere in Gloucester… I found in this manufests of the Huusar I haven’t opened the box up in years. In this was what was on the vessel and where it went down I believe the documents are from the 1800-+. I’m also interested in researching this. P.s also a drawn map

  10. Leggs says:

    I would love to talk to you about this Ag, I’ve read and know everything about this ship and this is really big news to me.

    The Manifests supposedly went down with the ship. Are you sure?

  11. A g says:

    Manifests about it are from London

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