The Gowanus Canal is filthy — filthy with a rare archeological trove, that is.
Environmental Protection Agency sonar readings have revealed several sunken vessels — including the 60-foot -long hull of a wooden vessel near Fifth Street that may date back to its glory days as an industrial highway of the 17th century.
“It looks like it might have been a working boat,” said archeologist John Vetter who found the craft.
He’s a scientist, so he conservatively suggested that the boat was at least 50 years old, but it is likely far older.
Sonar images also show the hull of a 126-foot-long barge, a 110-foot-long barge, a small boat, debris, tires, and a “mysterious U-shaped object between the Union and Carroll Street bridges,” according to EPA documents.
No human remains have yet to be discovered.
“We don’t think that’s too likely, but we’re not in a position to rule that out,” Vetter said.
The wrecks didn’t astonish those brave enough to dive in the canal — they’ve seen it all before.
“We were more surprised by the microbiology findings,” said Ludger Balan, founder of the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy, referring to a 2007 study that found an array of sexually transmitted disease germs living in the fetid corpse of water.
It is likely most of the items in the beleaguered canal, named a Superfund site last year, will simply be junk.
If something of historical significance is discovered, it will be preserved, as federal law forbids the agency from destroying anything of archeological value.
In the upcoming months, Vetter will be performing a more detailed analysis of the sonar data, determining how and whether the canal’s 11-year, $500 million cleanup will affect items or areas of historic value.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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