Pirates in New York Harbour

23 Jun

I was very surprised to find this item in the April 1916 Popular Science magazine. Apparently, back at the start of the previous century, piracy was rife.

Taming Those Harbor Pirates

(caption: Only Hong Kong surpasses New York in the number and activity of harbor pirates. New York’s police boats are therefore armed with machine guns.)

The problem of the harbor pirate has perplexed the police of every great port of the world. Perhaps thev have been more notorious in the cities of the Chinese coast than any other part of the world because of the wantonness and the dare-deviltry of their attacks. Even now, in the port of Hong Kong which usally bristles with the warships of all nations, a dark, ghostly junk often slips quietly up out of the night. Throat-cutting, and loot occur before the unsuspecting crew is hardly aware of the attack. Armored, shallow-draft gun-boats have done away to a large extent with these cut-throats in the south of China.

Next in prominence to the Chinese ports is the harbor of New York It would he difficult indeed to estimate the number of cheap melodramas that have been based on New York harbor pirateering. Within the last few years, however, the vocation of pirate in New York waters has lost the greatest part of its profitableness. River pirates when caught are dealt with so harshly that the pirates have been discouraged, and the recent addition to the New York police boats of automatic riflec, or gattling guns has removed almost all of the remaining desire.

Mounted conveniently on the root of the pilot houses of the New York police tugs are rapid-firing rifles which can be swept entirely around the compass. These guns will literally squirt bullets of the regulation army size at any desired target within a range of twenty-eight hundred yards, or considerably farther than a mile, with accuracy. They are not aimed. When the searchlight of the launch discovers a pirate craft, the gun is pointed in its general direction – and the trigger is pulled. The business of hitting the target is just as easy as squirting water from a hose on a man who is passing your front yard.

The crews of the eleven New York police boats – were given daily practice all last summer in the Ambrose Channel off Staten Island.

Each launch carries five hundred rounds of ammunition. When pirates are pursued, one of the three men who comprise the crew, is stationed at the gun, another steers the boat and directs the searchlight, while the third takes care of the engine.

When the character of the enemy is believed to he more dangerous than usual, the patrol boat which is equipped with a Hotchkiss one-pounder, projecting a shell about two inches in diameter, is called into service. It will throw a projectile accurately more than two miles.

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