A World War II vessel resting on the bottom of the Gowanus Canal could be the first archeologically important relic awaiting liberation from the polluted waterway, officials said this week.
“If it is intact, it will be very significant,” said John Vetter, an Environmental Protection Agency archeologist, who is working on a federally mandated plan to salvage and study the canal’s lost treasures as part of the Superfund cleanup.
As per federal law, anything of historical significance must be preserved.
The boat, at Third Street and Third Avenue, is certainly not new to hardcore Gowanus-heads. She was brought by tug from the Bronx, where she languished as an abandoned houseboat. But once in Brooklyn, the vessel saw new life as part of the Empty Vessel Project Art Collective.
But the problem — archeologically speaking — for the doomed air-sea rescue boat is that it’s been modified heavily since its days combing the oceans for distressed Allied troops.
“A vessel of this type would have significance should it possess significant integrity, but my expectation is that its lost a great deal of its integrity, so we’re not anticipating a great deal of understanding from it,” Vetter said.
If the vessel is a bust, there will be plenty more for researchers to sink their teeth into, as sonar data reveals the presence of other vessels, including 100-foot-long barges that serviced the former industrial artery.
In the next few weeks, Vetter will refine his scope of study, and ultimately determine if the waterway’s 11-year, $500-million cleanup will objects or areas of historic value.