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Authorities Work To Remove Explosives From Lake George

Lake George
Lucas Willard

Divers on Lake George are attempting to remove a cache of 19th century munitions discovered at the bottom of the lake.

Earlier this week, some divers in Lake George reported an interesting find to the Warren County Sheriff’s office.

According to Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree, the divers found wooden crates in about 65 feet of water on the eastern side of the lake, near the Mother Bunch islands.

“They brought one of the cases into shore, they opened it up, and they found that it contained munitions – shell casings.”

Lamouree reported that as of Thursday morning, divers with the U.S. Navy were working to extract the munitions.

“We’ve taken the position that we’re not experts on explosives or military munitions. We do not know if this stuff is still dangerous, even though it’s been submerged in the water. We felt it better to the let people that are trained to deal with this type of stuff deal with it, and the Navy will remove it from the bottom of the lake and they’ll dispose of it however they see fit,” said Lamouree.

The exact age of the shells has yet to be determined, but the Glens Falls Post Star reported the shells are between 8 and 10 inches long, about 40 mm around, and could date back to the 1870s.

Joe Zarzynksi, a retired history teacher and maritime archeologist from Wilton, has studied Lake George shipwrecks for 25 years. He said the discovery of something like munitions at the bottom of the lake is somewhat unusual due to the amount of silt there.

“Most of the lake bottom is covered with a layer of soft-sediment, or sand and so forth, so they would be out of sight to the average diver. That’s one of the reasons why they are indeed rare to find these,” said Zarzynki. He said munitions and weapons are more often found in shipwrecks.

Lake George was the site of military battles during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, and was also used for transport up to Lake Champlain during the War of 1812.

Zarzynksi believes cannon rounds found at the lake are more likely to date to the 1750s rather than the 1870s, making the find more unusual.

“They seem to be somewhat out of date for the activity that took place on Lake George, in the French and Indian War, which is 1755 to 1763, and the American Revolution, which was 1775 to 1783, so what I would call them is it’s a real mystery that you’re finding in Lake George cannonballs or mortar bombs that are dating back to the late 19th century.

Zarzynski said if the shells are confirmed to date back to the late 19th century, it could be possible they were associated with the Spanish-American war in 1898.

Warren County Sheriff Bud York told the Post Star it could be that the shells belonged to somebody who tried to dispose of them by dumping them in the lake, however, it still remains a mystery.

Scott Padeni, a retired archeologist and author of The Essential Lake George Boaters Guide said it can sometimes prove difficult to determine the exact age of an ordinate.

“It’s very to mistake ordinates, to the untrained eye, from one period to another. It’s fairly often that early conclusions are often wrong. Initially they might think it’s something, and then after further investigation they find out it’s something else.”

State Police and the Lake George Park Commission are assisting with the investigation.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 518-743-2500.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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