Friday, February 19, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 27

Hundreds of spectators swarmed into Cannonsburg in 1986 hoping to watch Bob Alcumbrack lift from the cofferbox the missing cannon. It was scheduled to be a four day event, but when folks started seeing Bob rub or scratch his head the rumor mill moved at lightning speed and tipped off the news media folks, who seemingly went into hyperdrive. The din of talk was getting so loud Bob was losing his concentration when walking the planks above the cofferbox. His crew felt this is when Bob's paranoia began, because the rod reactions weren't as strong and if fact the rod reactions was getting weaker as each day progressed. We felt the crowd chatter was interupting Bob's abilities to think and see clear pictures in his mind's eye. All dowsers work the best in silence and not noise. Allen Janose and Harold McCarthy were Bob's minders and were very proficient in the use of dowsing rods, too, and yet they wondered why the signals from the ground beneath were decreasing. I had my doubts the cannon was buried at the big dig site. Too many things didn't add up. Maggie McCarthy was sure Bob might be chasing a 'ghost cannon.'

My mind kept repeating 'Why would the original five killer cannon men bury the cannon in the same hole? The town elders for the second cannon burial didn't want to know where the cannon was buried so why in the first burial spot? The naysayers in Cannonsburg were saying 'It was dug up and used for the recycling war campaigns during the Spanish-American War or one of two World Wars.

Trouble was, the five men who buried the cannon were the only ones who buried it and they swore themselves to secrecy and I doubted one would dig it up without a concensus of the other four. That's exactly the same fate of the Twin Sister cannons of Texas and when they did return to dig them up they couldn't find them. Bob though discounted Maggie's belief that he was chasing a ghost cannon. He didn't believe the recycling mantra either and pressed forward with digging. After two days of digging the box had only sunk two feet, the third day two more feet and then he struck ice-cold Lake Superior like water, so cold it'd be too dangerous for his crew to dig without insulated boots and waders.

Bob and crew could suffer hypothermia if wet too long at the bottom of the coffer box. The crew purchased insulated gear and the digging began in earnest. I could never figure out how Bob expected to dig soil alongside a stream without encountering water. He had found liquid ice and when the box filled with water some scuba divers volunteered to probe the depths and remove sediment, but they couldn't be underwater for more than fifteen minute segments. Bob felt the presence of DNR and EPA investigators and he sensed they might be watching so he went to great lengths to make sure no sediments from the box got back to the stream. He felt someone was spying, but they and any spectators who caused any trouble could be charged with trespassing. To cut the spy stress Bob laughed and said, 'That's why my head itch's. Must be government fleas!'

Bob's nighttime operation deep in the mosquito infested woods looked more like a rescue mission or mining operation more than an archaeological dig. When the sun went down the spectators left in a hurry since the drone of mosquito wings grew louder and we practically bathed in mosquito dope. The mosquito population was horrendous and they rescued our cannon secrets. In the dark shadows the crew primed the bilge pumps and serviced the air injector lines. Finally Bob could walk the planks in complete silence -- no spectator din - from corner to corner, but Bob's rods didn't work. The energy fields had disappeared or were so faint the rods barely moved. The nighttime air was cooling and mists were rising from the cold stream, the fog spotlighted by the full moon rising overhead. Bob couldn't map out the disposition of the cannon.

Bob shrugged off the weak signals saying he must be tired. Divining rods don't work unless the body is physically rested, that's mind, too, and when the rods don't work that shows the depth of body fatigue. That's what we all believed, but the magnetic fields disappeared for his crew, too. A week earlier the rods crossed easily in Bob's hands as well as Allen's and Harold's. Odd! All shrugged it off as tiredness. Bob pushed his electronic metal detectors down into the water just in case the cannon was made of iron. It squealed softly, but the signal weak. He began to ponder if it might be wrought iron, but he didn't know for sure. He had no proof what type of metal was present. It was still buried deep - twelve feet. Odd, why did it seem to be slipping deeper?

Magnetic readings were higher during the day, but growing weaker at night. Bob had done his homework prior to digging and triple checked his readings with the most advanced and sophisticated metal detectors known to mankind in 1986. The cannon and carriage's magnetic energy fields encapsulated the cannon inside the coffer box, but the deeper the box settled the more the cannon fell outside the box walls. This would present him with additional challenges to overcome. He couldn't fathom why the cannon was shifting? Could it be the weight of the box was pushing it outward and downward into softer soil? Was it his impression of Elvis Presley's famous hip gyrations he used to rock the box causing it to sink? Bob was stymied. How could his hips shift the massive weight of the cannon?

Again came the question you want answered. The question is rephrased. "How could five men dig and bury the cannon to a depth of 12 feet in 45 minutes in a spring where shifting sand, gravel and ice-cold water that prevented us from digging in four days? "

Four days was Bob's target date, but it took 21 more days before the box reached maximum depth. Surely rolling the carriage with cannon into a bubbling spring wouldn't cause the cannon to sink an bury itself to a depth of 12 feet without additional help?

Tompsett's survivors buried the cannon deep and fast. They had to make sure the cannon was gone forever before the Cannonsburg community woke up and went to church or whatever. Bob assumed that time constraints and closeness to town were the key to getting rid of the killer cannon. This would prove to be Bob's most inaccurate illogical explanation.

One week after the Fourth of July, the magnetic signals got stronger, so strong neither Bob, nor Allen, Harold or Matt had trouble mapping the disposition of the cannon from atop the cofferbox. The cannon's existence was confirmed when rods crossed (+). The bilge pumps labored heavily sucking up disturbed sediments, woody debris and different colors of sand. Tiny pebbles of bluestones and greenstones flowed down the sluiceways. Black sediments of coarse granular sand was encountered, the sand streaking the orange sand. We could see and feel the different textures of sand, the same type of things water well drillers grind between their fingers. The sediments ran off the sluiceways far from the stream.

The spectators tried to get a closer look at the sluiceways, but we didn't want the interferrence or added liability. We were digging without insurance. Bob couldn't afford that luxury. We checked the sluiceway sand frequently hoping we'd find light colored woody debris, which might indicate the carriage was mushy below. Our fingers sifted the debris and black sand as if we were panning for placer gold.

It's ironic that in 1885 nine men had hands in secretly burying the cannon and nine men in 1986 were going to resurrect what they buried. Each group had a core group of five men. History going was repeating itself?

Our biggest surprise that Independence Day 1986 was that we did indeed strike gold in a thick layer of black sand, which was deposited onto the sluiceways and the running water filtered out the fine particulates of imbedded placer gold. Beams of bright sunlight filtered down throgh the dense treetops highlighting the precious mineral in black sand. Flecks of gold - so fine it'd take a long time before you got one ounce, but we had found something that has been actively mined from the glacial streams near Cannonsburg and Ada since the 1880's. Luckily we didn't find any quartz stones with big gold deposits. The public didn't need to know this secret.

Yes, we found real gold and not fool's gold that you find 'for sale' in specialty gift shops as gag gifts. Black sand is found near bubbling springs and black sand is everywhere in Bear Creek's streambed. Where? Gold secrets I do not share, but be forewarned by law you need a gold mining permit from the MDNR giving location of panning operations. You have the option to mine gold clandestinely, just don't get caught. Call it stone washing! Treasure hunters, those who actively search for precious minerals and stones have been stung often when providing locations to the government. Doing so doesn't mean your secret will remain private. You'll probably find your secret exposed by someone sifting for your gold without a permit. Like they say when you conduct businesses, "To avoid is legal, but to evade is illegal."

Bob's big dig had turned into a 'golden hole.' The public didn't need to know we had struck real gold and Bob wasn't interested. His goal was finding the Cannonsburg cannon and pulling it from its grave on July 4, 1986. The day turned out horrible. The bilge pump impellors were destroyed by the small stones being sucked through the pump. When that happened in late afternoon his crew the media and spectators were going to be disappointed by his lack of progress. The cannon was still six feet or more beneath the surface and shifting. In our core group discussions we kept our heads down and lips pointed to ground so nobody could read our lips or listen to our chatter. We were perpedicular or sideways to the media. Stalling was our mantra and secret. The crowd was growing impatient. We could sense they knew something was up as they studied Bob's body language; always scratching and rubbing his hands through his hair. Bob psyche was being challenged. His facial expressions showed his sadness, but eventually he told the crowd, the machinery failures had cancelled any hope of resurrecting the cannon as promised to conclude the weekend festivities.

Bob had proved that life isn't always fair and no matter how many positive ducks are in control it takes only one problem to sabotage the goal. Something will always go wrong and at 6:00 on the Fourth of July Bob, with tongue in cheek, announced officially that production had ceased and spectators and media had time to share the rest of the day with friends and family. He couldn't give a time frame for when operations would begin again, but each day after spectators showed up, but after a week of repeated starts and stops he saw fewer people until none appeared. The spectator hoopla was over and that was what he had hoped would happen. He could start anew without distractions. Next time you'll read what Bob discovered three weeks later -- it wasn't the end, but the beginning of the next segment of his journey into cannon hunting that lead to discovery of... "Good day," as Paul Harvey would say at his noon hour broadcast.

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