From Manhattan Island to Fishers Island off the coast of Long Island‘s North Fork, New York is an island world hiding in plain sight. Photographer and filmmaker Thomas Halaczinsky set off in a thirty foot sailboat to rediscover this forgotten world, chronicling his journey and reflections in a logbook called Archipelago New York. Beginning his journey at Brooklyn’s Gateway Marina, Halaczinsky follows the course charted by early seventeenth-century Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who first dubbed New York’s islands as an archipelago when he explored the coastal area. Four hundred years later, Halaczinsky replicates the 3,000 mile journey, traveling from Dead Horse Bay through the Long Island Sound, and back down the East River across multiple trips.
Broad Channel. Photos via Thomas Halaczinsky
Along the way Halaczinsky encounters the various inlets, bays, and islands that make up maritime New York, thoughtfully noting each spot’s history and lure. Sailing by Swinburne and Hoffman Islands, Halaczinsky recalls how these now-abandoned islands were used to quarantine sick immigrants before Ellis Island’s hospital took on that duty. Passing Plum Island, Halaczinsky describes the island’s past life as a bio-weaponry research lab. Other stories such as the 1993 drowning of Chinese refugees off the coast of Rockaways and tthe burning of the General Slocum note the sometimes bleak history of New York’s waters.
Swinburne Island. Photo via Thomas Halaczinsky
The floating prison barge at Hunts Point. Photo via Thomas Halaczinsky
Even more stirring than Halaczinsky’s reflections are his photographs. Seeing the coastline of New York from Halaczinsky’s perspective on his sailboat is truly an otherworldly experience. He captures the tranquility of the Rockaway Peninsula’s wetlands and the eeriness of South Brother Island in a way that makes it difficult to look away from the page.
Photo via Thomas Halaczinsky
Jamaica Bay. Photo via Thomas Halaczinsky
Fisher Island. Photo via Thomas Halaczinsky
As Halaczinsky explains in the preface of Archipelago New York, “The way nature and the urban environment coexist in New York’s archipelago inspired my photography. Images of the city glimmering like a Fata Morgana over the marsh in Jamaica Bay tell their own story. The sea is an empty canvas on which the reflection of the sky, the changing light, the mist, and fog paints its pictures.”