An Untapped Cities reader, Alex Quintana, tweeted us about the shipwreck of the HMS Hussar last week, after reading our article about the abandoned North Brother Island. The HMS Hussar was a British ship that sank in 1780 after it hit Pot Rock in the difficult waters of Hell Gate passage near the Bronx. The frigate was reportedly carrying 960,000 British pounds in gold when it sank. According to the Bank of England inflation calculator, that’s almost 146 million pounds (in 2012 currency). According to The New York Times, an international coin dealer estimated the bullion could be worth $576 million. But others believe only two to four million in gold were on board.
There is no official location of where it actually sank, and there are some conflicting reports. The New York Times reported that it sank in the East River in an article from 1985 when a salvage expert believed he had located the wreck off the Bronx shore. A 2002 New York Times piece puts the shipwreck between Port Morris in the Bronx and North Brother Island. The Wiki entry (accurate or not) says the HMS Hussar finally sank off the Connecticut shore, citing David Hepper’s British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. There is belief that the ship, or what is left of it after various dynamite blasts in Hells Gate for navigation purposes, may be under landfill in the Bronx.
Though the British denied there was gold aboard the ship, they made at least three salvage attempts, according to The World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt. An expedition reportedly turned up some gold but nothing to the extent of what supposedly went down. A cannon from the ship was donated to Central Park in 1865, and was discovered to be fully loaded in 2013.
Meanwhile, the fate of the ten HMS Hussar ships in British Royal Navy history have not been too fortunate. Three were shipwrecked. Four were captured by other countries. One was accidentally sunk by the Royal Air Force. One was deliberately destroyed as target practice.