Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 45

Iron ore carriers of the Great Lakes started the shipping season on Sat. March 13th. As of last Sat. 20th the Coast Guard ice-breakers rescued several 1000 foot long freighters from ice packs in southern Lake Huron. Weeks of northeast winds broke up ice early shifting it southward. 65,000 tons of coal left Duluth, Minnesota for coal fired power plants and passed through the Sault Ste. Marie (Soo Locks) on Saturday while other iron ore carriers were preparing to sail for steel mills in southern Lake Michigan.

Iron ore is what England had in excess quantities and it took England more than 400 years of purchasing cannons before they had the craftsmen to use their own iron ore. Brass cannons were imported and made everywhere except England. The English were exceptionally good at rigging ships that arrived from New England and Canada after being towed across the North Atlantic. England had exhausted its pine and oak forests before 1700.

Where cannons were made was only dependent on whether or not England was friendly or warring with them. Switzerland, Scotland, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, France, Italy, Spain and Germany were its suppliers, but the true Master founders came from Italy, Germany, France and Spain. England was always at war with them and America (1775-83) and (1812-1818).

Prior to the Civil War very few American gunfounder workers could read or follow blueprints for production of war cannons. Several American private bell foundries did successfully manufacture a few bronze cannons, but they were muzzleloaders and not made according to bronze standards. American founders mixed the copper and tin with other scrap metals, which meant the cannons were cheaply made hollowware (not solid), which had the habit of bursting prematurely when fired. Many inferior bronze cannons burst before the 300th round and that is why the US military refused to purchase them.

Military officers who did were court-martialed, imprisoned or drummed out of the military. Military hardware couldn't be sold to the general public so how could the Cannonsburg cannon have been deemed small military? It's because wealthy individuals could purchase slightly less than military grade from private foundries or they were cannons captured during war or rescued from shipwrecks. Therefore the Cannonsburg cannon wasn't an arsenal piece from the US military. We kept this secret, because original cannons from other countries increased the treasure value of documented history.

The US military had strict regulations and requirements for purchasing cannons from European countries during the Civil War. Many times cannons were purchased for Union and Confederate war operations from the same gunrunners of the same company. When the Civil War hostilites started each side had about 40 cannons with a few bronze cannons made in America. Since bronze resists corrosion, the old Cannonsburg cannon would show no signs of of deterioration even if buried hundreds of years in a cold moisture laden grave beside a small stream or buried in upland soils. The metal wheel shoes (iron and steel) would soften from oxidational rusting unless they were made of white brass. Some carriage wheels didn't have shoe rims.

What was most intriguing at Bob's first big dig site was he dowsed the energy field dimensions of the wheels and the distances between the two-wheel mounts inside the coffer box were larger than the dimensions of any previous small military cannon. This poundage increased the deeper the box sunk, the more sand was pumped or dug out, but no wood fibers or oxidized metal rusting. Bob's use of dowsing rods was being questioned. The energy fields were growing as we got closer and Bob said piece and carriage was still intact.

If the cannon were as big as Bob dowsed we wondered how was he going to raise the cannon weight without destroying the liquified carriage. Carriages were made of oak, not pine. Pine was too soft but it built the British Man of Wars, but oak was sturdy and had weight. Weight of carriage is what keeps them from exploding upward. Getting close to the carriage, the slightest movement of water and soil disbursement would destroy the carriage architecture before we could map it. We tried visualizing whether or not after being buried for 101 years would it simply dissolve with water movement and mining disturbances? When Bob started his search he was looking for just the cannon and wasn't concerned with the carriage.

To authenticate the cannon he needed to find the brass engravement plaque. The engravement might be in the carriage wood. Without the engravement language it couldn't be certified as the Cannonsburg cannon. If the carriage was found he'd have to draw a diagram, the disposition of cannon and carriage. With the history of the cannon missing he couldn't ascertain if the cannon were engraved, a brass plaque installed or was the inscription branded into the wood. Very seldom were cannons engraved after being cast.

Houdini's the five men (Tompsett's friends) weren't and Bob assumed it was a small 6-pound cannon, but the corrected ordnance weight put it in excess of 884 pounds and thas is the same size and weight of each of the Twin Sisters' cannons. Each wheel of the carriage would weigh in from 150-200 pounds each. The trail with tongue spade that keeps in on the ground when cannon is fired would weigh an additional 1,153 pounds for a total of 2,337 pounds.

Bob's nine-foot six-inch long dimensional cannon resting on carriage would weigh 3,493 pounds and require a four-wheeled caisson and 6-8 horses to pull it. That's one horse for each 600 pounds. Two horses couldn't pull this two-wheeled cannon carriage deadweight if stuck in trail sand. Think like a treasure hunter.

How could five men pull and wrestle with such a large cannon and carriage and dig a deep hole in water laden sand the size of a 1976 Gran Torino - Ford automobile within one hour after passing Estella Wards parents house around 5 a.m. Sunday, July, 5, 1885. It took Bob and crew 28 days to find out it wasn't a cannon inside the coffer box, but a (+) formation where two major underground streams intersected with stones encrusted in iron ore remains.

Estella Ward never told Bob how many horses were pulling the cannon, but she did confirm that she saw five men hauling the cannon up the street. He questioned Estella many times trying to spill the beans, but she kept silent. She was a willing participant in the ultimate secret society of Cannonsburg. Bob always said that Estella heard the carriage wheels squeaking loudly as they pulled the cannon up the street. She made no mention of a caisson, but the our crew wondered why didn't the men oil the carriage wheels. They couldn't if made of wood. Any oil on wood it'd swell making it squeak louder and she wouldn't tell Bob how many horses were pulling the cannon.

Estella never mentioned the size of cannon or number of horses. She was sworn to secrecy probably under a death pact not to reveal any information that could lead any future treasure hunters to its resting place. The town physician between 1885-1889 tried to loosen tongues, too, on where the cannon is buried, but alas, after four years of tending to throngs of depressed Cannonburgers he left town and resettled at a Grand Rapids medical school teaching surgery techniques. He could no longer stand the secret silence and the town folks constant depression had finally taken its toll on his psyche so he left. This showed the depth of the ultimate secret societies compassion for the Tompsett's.

It took the original five men in 1885 to get rid of the cannon in one hour. It took seven men in 1986 some 28 days of digging to find out Bob hadn't dowsed a cannon, but a major underground river with two feeder streams with iron ore encrusted stones and deposits with black sand sparkling with real gold and a poliferation of magnetized stones. As a treasure hunter you might have mined the gold, but we couldn't take the chance spectators found out, because the area might be pock-marked with too many additional holes.

When Bob's big dig failed to produce the cannon he found out that he should have done lots more research, the paperwork trails "that lead to clues and more clues" like in National Treasure starring Nicholas Gage, before mounting a physical search. Smart treasure hunters must dig less soil and rock before mounting such a large scale expedition with minimal support. When paper trails diminish, stop or grows cold then you can consider physical action.

Bob was running out of time and options. He didn't have all the answers before he started looking and his research was limited to hearsay clues or what he didn't hear as he listened to oral history. Mr. Murray's body language blindsided his better judgement, but at age 55, the senior status he acquired was beginning to take control of his body; aches and pains getting more prevalent so he decided it was now or never. He wasn't getting younger, but he started somewhere and hoped to succeed. More physical pain lessens mind concentration. The mind's eye takes longer to focus.

At the bottom of the first dig he found no cannon, but mysteries yet to unfold. No public spectators to witness Bob and crews humiliation. We had to figure out what corrupted Bob's dowsing rods and his mind's eye. We had to find a clue that lead to a better understanding of what size cannon he had to envision. No more guessing and miscalculations because of increasing or decreasing energy fields. He had to learn how to use the rods to discern between iron ore, energized stones made of tungsten and lost white brass junk. We found out after the second dig was a bust what size cannon he had to envision while digging hole number three. He had perfected rod useage and we found...

How do you like mysterious cliffhangers?

I've baited the hook, you swallowed both and I set the hook and now I'm washing you without reelin' you in. That's the flickering halo I've told you about - mine flickers, but its that short-circuit flash that keeps your attention! Like Red Green of PBS fame says "Keep your stick on the ice, we're all in this together."

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