One thing I know very well now about journalism — you can only plan for so much.
But, I was hoping everything would go as planned this past Friday. I had been buzzing away at my desk at North Fork Patch headquarters in Mattituck all morning, totally in the zone, getting everything done and wanting to spend the afternoon digging into a couple features I wanted to set up for Monday and Tuesday, close up shop like a normal person around 5 p.m. and jet over to in Jamesport to check out the night — which I heard is really cooking these days. And perhaps actually have a life over the weekend.
Then, just after noon, I get this email alert: “NY| Suffolk| Orient| *Water Search*| | Several agencies involved in search for reports of a submarine in the area with no training plans filed for the area.”
Yarg! I glanced up to the ceiling and wished I had moved to East Marion for the week. It’s funny, every winter, it seems like news finally starts to come out of quiet, lonely Orient. Last year, the ongoing saga of took center stage, and this week started off with me frantically running from Mattituck to Orient to cover a (which, thankfully, could have been much worse but wasn’t) and ended with the possibility of me making the great trek again based on … rumor.
And wasn’t answering her phone in Greenport. Hey, she met her story quota for the week, I don’t blame her. So I called my friend , who works at in Greenport.
“Andy, could you please drive out to the causeway on your lunch break and see if there’s any police or military vehicles out there? I heard there’s an unauthorized submarine floating around somewhere near there,” I said.
“Oh, so Orient has finally decided to attack the rest of us?” he said.
“Possibly,” I said. “Just let me know if there’s anything going on at all.”
Of course, nothing doing on the causeway, he reported.
is still there, though,” he said.
Suddenly, messages began to flood my Facebook inbox and chatbox about not only this submarine report but with tips about — seen throughout the East End over the past two days. They were apparently here for a military funeral (though no one seems to know who died). The vehicles were yellow amphibious tank-like beasts that no one had seen trucking like this through our neck of the woods before.
The clock was ticking, and my concentration for feel-good feature stories was shot at that point, so I decided to take a ride out to Orient. Of course, on the way I’m stopped by the at the intersection of Route 48 and Moores Lane — One driver to the hospital for minor injuries. Nothing too bad. Took two pics. Instastory. Firemen think I have a crystal ball or something — I'm just always there.
Back on the road to Orient, my friend calls me up.
“Carol, I can’t talk right now, I’m chasing an unauthorized submarine apparently submerged somewhere near Orient,” I said.
“Oh cool … is it yellow?” she asked.
Ah yes, I forgot that Carol lives eternally in a soundtrack written between 1960 and 1979. And at that point, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was yellow — maybe one of those amphibious armored vehicles themselves — with Paul McCartney at the helm.
I too saw nothing but Bug Light at the causeway, so onward I went to Orient Point. Nothing suspicious-looking at theI parked the car and took the lonely but lovely walk though to the point. Nothing butand a new “cable crossing” fence where the used to stand in front of me.
I got another email alert on the walk back: “U/D NY| Suffolk| Orient| *Water Search*| Orient Causeway| Privately owned sub, the submarine repair base is just north of orient in Groten, CT.”
Privately owned? I asked Chief Martin Flatley what he knew.
“There is a privately owned sub (about 12' long) in Greenport, but it would not get confused with the real thing,” he said. “We are trying to get to the bottom of this also and have made a lot of inquiries, but no one yet has any facts.”
I stopped into for a fill up — for gas and more rumors, as it turned out. I hadn’t seen my friend, the owner of the station, in a while.
“You looking for submarines?” he said as I got out of the car.
“How’d you know?” I laughed.
Hands said that he’d heard all sorts of things at his station since the rumor mill lit up shortly after noon that day — the armored vehicles were sent here for training, the armored vehicles were here due to an emergency related to the submarine, National Guard helicopters were seen flying over Connecticut, the whole scenario was a Homeland Security drill related to Plum Island … etc.
It was too late to call anyone at Plum Island once I got settled in Greenport to make some sort of sense of what I’d been hearing, but I did get this statement from Lt. Jennifer Cragg, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Naval Submarine Base located across the Long Island Sound in New London, Conn.:
“As a standard rule, we don't discuss submarine operations, however, there is a submarine base in Groton/New London area, and the Long Island Sound is in the transiting path.”
So … no confirming or denying what might or might not have happened that day. My colleagues to the south, Southampton Patch Editor Brendan O’Reilly and East Hampton Patch Editor Taylor Vecsey, also made calls to their own police and military contacts but could not get solid information on the armored vehicles or the submarine reports.
I guess the other guarantee in journalism is that sometimes, you’ll just never know. Not that I’ll stop trying, but sometimes you have to know when to stop. After I decided to finally close up shop (differently than I had intended) Friday evening, I asked my friend Andy about his final assessment of the afternoon.
“Um... it sounds like someone dropped a bunch of hallucinogens across the East End this week,” he said.
Sometimes, you just never know.
Be sure to catch investigating another North Fork mystery on a new , to air in early May.