Southern Brooklyn

Diver Finds Explosives Spilled Under Verrazano


Will Discovery Channel sign Gene Ritter up for a series already? The man is quickly forging the title of “Celebrity Diver,” so if we can’t do Discovery, there’s always Lifetime. (I mean, they’ll buy anything, right?)

Following up on his amazing 2009 recovery of the historic brass bell from Coney Island’s Dreamland Park, Ritter and his team last week came across a stash of World War II-era munitions believed lost more than 50 years ago. And the live ammo sits just 20 feet under water beneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, in spitting distance of shipping routes.

While diving to photograph a few small shells they found last year, Ritter and company found eight artillery shells and 1,500 large-caliber machine gun shells designed to explode on contact.

Experts are saying the ammo likely came from a stockpile was lost to the waters during a military accident in 1954. The U.S.S. Bennington was moored off Fort Lafayette with the munitions on a barge tied to its side. A violent storm overturned the barge.

According to the NY Post, the find is now creating a dangerous situation demanding attention from the city. Attempting to move the explosives could set them off. And since they’re  packed in air-filled canisters, dislodging them could send them drifting into shipping lanes or beaches – not to mention the nearby oil depot.

Additionally, Assemblyman Colton is sounding the alarm about dredging in Gravesend Bay, about a mile away, fearing it may affect the explosives. Of course, the dredging is for a waste-transfer station that Colton is staunchly opposing.

The Navy appears to be disavowing responsibility, leaving cleanup efforts to the city.

Comment policy


  1. “…find is now creating a dangerous situation…”

    If we forget the whole thing will the danger go away, as it has been there for 50 years already?

  2. New Yorkers, it’s sad to say, suffer from acute firearm ignorance. And so do journalists. Why would old ammo in a river be dangerous? Ammunition (and artillery rounds) are made to be safe to handle. If anyone cares, a diver could safely pull up the boxes. Otherwise, there might be a few real problems to think about instead.

  3. As Whwsailboat said, this isn’t exactly a new danger if it’s been there all this time without incident, but this news item does raise a good issue… our waterways have been polluted heavily (I’m looking at you Newton Creek/Gowanus Canal) and only now are we starting to clean them up. Some of them are Superfund sites, while some just have, uh, artillery shells, apparently… but either way, thankfully, we’re finally starting to clean them up.


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