Yes, Folks, on this date in 1912, this photo was taken of the Longan Hills Ferry which crossed from Staten Island to Manhattan and back again on regular service for several years until that fateful first day of 1912. It was at 2PM, and although the sun was shining brightly and there had been a brief warm-up in the Winter weather, the danger of icebergs was still high. This is the last photo of the passengers and the ill-fated ship... within 18 minutes of the shutter clicking on this happy scene the terrible horror unfolded. Captain Ira Hankheimer had pushed the vessel to its maximum speed of 3 mph and rushed headlong into the ice field. Warnings had been issued, by both seal hunters and members of the Polar Bear Nudist Society, but NO! Hankheimer was determined to break the holiday-crossing record, and he (and his passengers!) paid the hideous price.
On impact, sixty-eight of the passengers and thirteen of the brave crew perished in the rushing waters. An additional fifty-six died later from the exposure mostly to the cold, but many also at the sight of the Polar Bear Nudist Society. Some actually gouged their own eyes out back on dry-land. As you can see from the photo, at this time, there were separate parts of the boats for men and women.... the men could spit, smoke, swear, and recite saucy limericks at will on their side, and the ladies could discuss gardening, fashion patterns, and ...um.. "women's hygiene" on theirs. Sadly, it was on the ladies' side of the boat that the Polar Bear Nudists attempted to board and save lives during the sinking. It was impossible to decipher whether the hysterical screams of the women were from drowning in the icy water or from seeing a man's "private areas".... in icy water.
You may ask why you haven't heard more about this sea-going tragedy; the answer is very simple. The sinking of the Titanic just a few months later on April 15th completely eclipsed the public's memory of that tragic New Year's Day in 1912.
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