The Island of No Nation
With Doug Paulson and Lan Tuazon
November 25, 2007
Lan always wanted to visit the Nonations Islands in the Bronx.
But when we got there we couldn’t find them.
From all my charts, they should have been just North of Hart Island in the Long Island Sound.
But but we just couldn’t see anything out there.
As we paddled closer to Hart Island we alerted the attention of the 24 hour guard: a large police boat slowly circled the island.
Hart Island is a potter’s field, tended by inmates from Rikers Island. My friend Siobhan Liddell landed there once on accident, years ago. She said that it was beautiful.
We decided to paddle North and see what we could find.
We noticed a cresting wave ahead – a sure sign of a submerged island!
The waves were right where the Nonations Islands should be.
It turns out that East Nonations and South Nonations Islands are here, completely submerged at high tide.
We floated slowly by the rocks. There was something unsettling about knowing they had been down there all along.
Just ahead we saw something that looked like a fortress. We seemed to be under the watchful eye of the Hart Island patrol boat, so we drifted North a bit,
and snuck up from the rear.
There was a ramp on the blind side of the island.
Here is what we found.
Everything about it looked like a construction site, not like an abandoned fortress.
Doug found out later that this is going to be someones house.
Back in the water, I was getting hungry and the wind seemed to be picking up against us.
But there was one more stop to make.
I wanted to get a closer look at this little wreck. I thought that we had landed back in the Bronx.
But as we walked into the interior we started to notice things.
Like a huge old cannon facing the Sound.
And this wrecked house.
The floor of the building was completely fallen away.
It looked like someone was fixing up the building at some point, and then left it all to rot.
When we are in places like this, Lan sais that she can feel the presence of all the people that have lived and died here.
She says she doesn’t like the feeling, but sometimes I think that it draws her to exploring abandoned buildings.
It was hard to piece together all the things that we were seeing.
What was this place?
We found some kind of overgrown octagonal church or meeting place.
And as we walked along the shore,
we realized that we were seeing buidlings that we had seen from the water on the other side.
We were not on the shore of the Bronx at all, but on a large island right next to it.
I’m not sure why exploring an island is so much better than when you are just on land.
But somehow we felt like we had discovered something rare and special.
Back in the water the wind was dead against us and we paddled hard to get back to the beach where we had launched.
When we got home that night, Doug looked up where we had been online. He found this site about David’s Island – information compiled by Michael Cavanaugh – who grew up on the island. http://www.home.earthlink.net/~michaelacavanaugh/id1.html
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