August 6, 2007

Submarine replica found near Queen Mary ship in Brooklyn

This on the site

"It was September 1776 when a crude submarine known as the "Turtle" failed in its attempt to blow up a British ship in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War.

Friday, a homemade replica of the Turtle caused its own commotion near the passenger ship Queen Mary 2 anchored off Brooklyn, triggering a massive security alert and landing a controversial New York artist in some trouble.

Police harbor units leapt into action Friday morning after an NYPD detective saw two unauthorized vessels approaching a security zone around the Queen Mary, docked in Red Hook, officials said. One vessel, a pear-shaped wooden submersible with a total height of about eight feet, was being towed by an inflatable raft, and the aquatic entourage pulled to within 25 yards of the cruise ship.
They appear to have put the sub in the water at Red Hook to see if it would float," said state Deputy Public Safety Secretary Michael Balboni, who happened to be flying over the harbor in a helicopter to examine port security.

"It looked like a big sea buoy bobbing in the water," said Balboni. "It was about 25 yards from the stern of the Queen Mary."

A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard in New York said the submersible, also dubbed the "Turtle," had only a peddle system for propulsion and had no other means of power or steering mechanism. One man was in the submersible craft while two others were on the inflatable craft, a group of people police Commissioner Ray Kelly described as "three adventuresome individuals" involved in some "marine mischief."

Kelly was also quick to note that an ongoing investigation yielded no security threat or link to terrorism.

The nautical adventure appears to have been the idea of Duke Riley, a 35-year-old Brooklyn native described by a friend as an artist with a penchant for the odd "guerrilla sort of project." Police identified his two cohorts on the raft as being Michael Cushing,41, and Jesse Bushnell, 18, both of Rhode Island. A law enforcement source said Bushnell claimed to be a relative of the original submarine designer, David Bushnell.

In the 1776 incident the original Turtle got close to a British warship but couldn't attach an explosive device, which detonated later in the harbor waters, according to historical accounts.

"He doesn't mean any harm, but he straddles the line of the law with his projects," said Emily Miranda, 34, a friend of Riley. The three men could not be reached for comment.

Officials said Riley was issued a citation for violating the security zone around the Queen Mary 2. Cushing and Bushnell weren't given citations, officials said.

While the stunt may have been part of artistic expression, officials said that they weren't taking any chances.

"In a situation like this with the Queen Mary being a sensitive vessel, we would approach tactically," said Lt. John Snerina of the police harbor unit, explaining the large law enforcement turnout.

"We have never seen anything [like this] in the harbor before."

Staff writers Carol Eisenberg, Rocco Parascandola and Laura Albanese contributed to this story.

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