The Detroit Police Department's dive team often discovers unusual items in the water -- cars, guns and even a statue stolen from the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.
Today, divers plan to recover another obscure find: a cannon measuring more than 6 feet long, expected to weigh 1,200 pounds and believed to be more than 200 years old.
It was found covered in zebra mussels in the Detroit River during training in July and will be the fifth cannon recovered from the area near Cobo Center in the last three decades.
Sgt. Dean Rademaker took part in the dive when the last one was found in 1994 and always heard there was another, somewhere.
"We've dove that area hundreds of times and never came across it," he said.
Then while training in the water during the summer, Rademaker spotted a silhouette on top of the sand. "It was something that wasn't supposed to be there," he said.
He swam over to it, felt a hole in the front and then saw a ball on the back.
"I thought to myself, 'You gotta be kidding me,' " he said.
The elusive fifth cannon was discovered about 200 feet off the seawall in front of Cobo. It is partially buried in sand and will need to be dug out before it's lifted by the U.S. Coast Guard's crane, Rademaker said.
Officers said they plan to turn the cannon over to the Detroit Historical Society so it can be preserved.
Once out of the water, historians will begin piecing together clues to try to determine the story behind it.
Metal testing, measuring the barrel and other dimensions, and physical markings on the cannon may help explain where it came from and how old it is, Detroit Historical Society Curator Joel Stone said. The location in the water and the way the cannon faced are details that have been recorded and also will help answer questions.
"This is all kind of a detective thing," Stone said. "You get one piece of the puzzle, and then you get another piece of the puzzle."
Of the four other cannons believed to be British and French, one was found in 1984, two in 1987 and one in 1994, Stone said. Two are on display at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum in Detroit and the other two are at the Historic Ft. Wayne in Detroit.
Whether there are more and how the cannons got in the Detroit River remain unclear.
One theory is that the British were moving some of the cannons down the Detroit River to Ft. Malden in Amherstburg, Ontario, and they went overboard or the boat sunk in 1796, Stone said. They appear to have been made before 1760, but could have gone down anytime up to the War of 1812, he said. The British cannon recovered in 1984 may have sunk with a barge based on some debris found near it, Stone said.
The newly discovered cannon could answer questions about the others or might bring more mysteries.
"Sometimes these things create more questions than they actually answer," Stone said. "But that's kind of the fun."
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