Unbelievable Objects Found In Drained Bodies of Water
Let's see what happened when they drained a canal for the first time in decades, plus more lost objects found in drained bodies of water!Knowledge
There’s something about murky bodies of water that can leave you wondering; “what’s down at the bottom?” Sunken treasure? Long lost relics? Maybe something someone’s trying to hide? Most of the time it’s just a lot of trash.
However, back in 2021, in London, England, the 191-year-old Hertford Union canal was drained for the first time in 20 years. As volunteers started to clear it of trash, they stumbled across a wealth of truly bizarre finds! Let's unfold what they found, alongside a whole host of other crazy discoveries made under drained bodies of water!
What Is A Canal?
You can find canals in cities all over the world. Canals were originally built as waterways to transport goods around countries, though they also supplied water for agriculture and acted as overflow channels in case of flooding.
To tackle elevation changes, the canals contain locks. These are chambers that only take a little elbow grease to operate. A boat is driven into the lock section, and the gate behind it is pushed closed from the shore. Then a paddle in the front gate is gradually opened, along with underground culverts which let water into the lock.
If the canal section the boat is heading into is higher, the water level in the locks will slowly increase until the boat is level with the oncoming canal section. If not, the water is let out via the paddles, and the boat slowly sinks down to the elevation of the next section; it's a pretty genius system.
While many cities once heavily relied on these waterways for transporting cargo, these days they’re more filled with trash than they are with water! Illegal-dumping and fly-tipping is a huge problem, and they’re often used to quickly dispose of evidence as they’re extremely difficult to search!
To prevent this build-up of garbage from causing damage to both the canals and the boats using them, most canals are semi-regularly drained to remove it.
The Hidden Treasure Of Hertford Union Canal
The need for routinely draining canals leads us to the previously mentioned Hertford Union Canal. It’s a seemingly mundane stretch of water just 1 mile long through East London. But in 2021, the locks were opened, and the entire canal was drained for the first time in 20 years to carry out vital repair work on the inner walls.
While the repairs were underway, volunteers were called in to help clean up the garbage that had accumulated in the past 2 decades. There was trash, tires, rusty bicycles, and traffic cones, pretty standard stuff that had been illegally tossed in there.
But one of the volunteers, Nicola White, made some seriously strange discoveries, such as a disembodied Elsa doll’s head with screws for earrings! Was someone practicing voodoo on Frozen's Elsa? Though the heavy black eyeliner suggests someone was giving her an extreme goth makeover!
And this wasn’t the only doll lost to the canal, as another princess doll was found naked with clumps of hair missing. Hopefully, this was just a coincidence and not someone hexing an enemy with a voodoo balding curse!
Though this canal had been drained previously, it hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned, meaning objects from as far back as the 1830’s were waiting to be discovered. Alongside modern plastic toys, it revealed Victorian era artifacts such as an inkwell, the far fiddlier predecessor to the modern ballpoint pen, which held ink for writers to dip their writing quills into.
Though how it ended up in the canal remains a mystery. Perhaps it was lost by a whimsical writer sat on the banks of the canal or thrown into the water by a Victorian schoolboy who didn’t want to do any homework that day!
Other lost objects include a lost vintage ring which was covered in a myriad of strange engravings. Was it thrown in by a scorned lover? Or did it slip off when someone decided to take a dip in the water? Hopefully it wasn’t a wedding ring!
But it wasn’t just human artifacts left in the canal, as Nicola uncovered a jawbone with sharp, spiky teeth! What monsters are lurking in this canal? Luckily the jawbone actually belonged to a northern pike fish.
This is a species of mid-sized carnivorous fish that is common to freshwaters of the northern hemisphere. Pikes are relatively common in Britain’s canals, so to any Brits reading this be careful about dipping your feet in the canals on a hot day. Your toes could end up as a Pike’s lunch!
Nicola doesn’t just spend her time cleaning up canals though! She also mudlarks on the River Thames which, despite the name, doesn’t involve rolling around in the mud but rather searching through it for lost artifacts!
The Thames is the 2nd longest river in the UK, meandering some 215 miles through the south of England. The last 99 miles of the river is tidal, because the river’s mouth connects with the North Sea and comes under the influence of the tides.
Twice a day the tides come in and out, churning up mud and long-forgotten artifacts onto the estuary banks. Mudlarkers like Nicola can go sifting through the mud during the low tides before the water reclaims these lost artifacts.
The Thames River has flowed through London since it was founded more than 2000 years ago, and the river still contains artifacts from decades, or even centuries ago! One of the more dangerous items Nicola dredged up from the mud was an unexploded hand grenade!
Dated back to World War 2, it’s possible it fell off a transport ship, or was maybe dropped by a soldier. Whatever its story, after Nicola reported the discovery to the police, the device had to be destroyed in a controlled explosion.
Contrary to what you might think, a controlled explosion doesn’t set off the device. Rather it delivers a charge that blows apart the components of the grenade, including the timer, trigger, and explosive material, faster than the grenade can detonate itself, just in case it is still active.
Stranger than that though, back in 2017 Nicola began finding rolled-up socks on an oddly regular basis at a particular spot on the banks over the course of a few weeks. But these socks weren’t dropped out of someone’s gym bag, rather they’d been deliberately thrown in!
Hidden within these bags was jewelry, presumedly stolen! It seems the jewelry was dumped by thieves after they were found to have little value to be pawned on. But it’s not always socks, sometimes it was literal bags full of watches, necklaces, earrings, even teapots and cutlery!
Nicola reported these finds to the police and tried to find the rightful owners of these trinkets and was successful on at least one occasion! Doing the mudlarking community proud there! But stolen jewelry doesn’t compare to one of Nicola’s grimmest finds, a jawbone with only one tooth remaining, and it was disturbingly human!
You might be wondering why this person never went to the dentist. Well, dental hygiene probably wasn’t a big thing in their time, as radiocarbon analysis has dated the bone between 1650 and 1900. So, not a recent victim, though it’s likely this person still came to an unfortunate end.
Back in this Victorian era, the south bank of the Thames River was host to Jacob’s Island, a notorious slum with the crime rate to match. So, this jawbone maybe the remains of an unlucky mugging victim from hundreds of years ago, whose body was chucked into the river to hide the evidence!
The Thames has historically been used to dispose of bodies in the past, and Nicola herself can also attest to finding the remains of a partial skeleton from the 1700s! Mudlarking is not for the fainthearted!
But Nicola isn’t the only Mudlarker combing the Thames River for treasure! Simon of the Si-Finds channel, and his friend Jules, have made some equally weird and wonderful discoveries, such as the lid of a Victorian toothpaste jar!
The Victorians certainly had some strange ideas when it came to cleaning their teeth, as they commonly used castile soap, which had a base of olive oil. And for teeth whitening they used charcoal mixed with honey, which, even though it brightened their teeth, seriously inflamed the gums!
But not all finds have as much history behind them, Jules had the luck of pulling several phones and even a tablet up from the mud! With all the bridges over the Thames, people regularly stop to try and get a good picture, only to lose their grip and have their devices disappear into the water!
It happens more often than you’d think, because on this day alone, Simon and Jules pulled out an incredible 7 phones from different eras between them! So, if you’re visiting London, be sure to keep hold of your phone when taking that all important bridge selfie!
Another weirdly common find for London Mudlarkers is clay pipes! These are a dime a dozen in the river!
Clay pipes were the cigarettes of the day back in the 17th and 18th centuries, often bought pre-filled with tobacco and discarded after a single use. As a result, the Thames foreshore is littered with the things, flicked into the river by the sailors of the day.
But before you decide to pull on your boots to go searching along the Thames for your own golden souvenirs, note that Mudlarking on the foreshore requires a permit. This is a special license to dig into the banks up to a depth of just 2.9 inches, so no full-scale treasure excavations.
Though this sounds like a shallow depth, most cool treasures are found just beneath the muddy sand of the foreshore. Such as the crystal ball below discovered by Simon and Jules!
They reckon it’s made of marble, but after a little internet digging, it looks like it might be a selenite ball. Polished spherical selenite balls of this size are often used by crystal lovers and mediums to “connect earth and moon energies” and “cleanse their chakras”.
Maybe the mystic meg that once owned this ball threw it into the river thinking it would help cleanse it of all the pollution? Well, it’s either that, or someone really didn’t like the future they saw in this crystal ball.
Across the UK, there are 4,700 miles of navigable canals, 2,700 miles of which form an interconnected system in the south of England. So, you could row a boat from London to Liverpool! But it’s not just boats that use them! Cars are a surprisingly common thing to be found sunken in canals.
Three cars were pulled out of Gloucester and Sharpness canals in 2016 alone! The cars were completely rusted over, dumped there years, if not decades, ago. You’d have to be seriously bad at parking to end up reversing into a canal!
In the UK, the charity responsible for pulling out these wrecked motors is known as the Canal & River Trust. They spend more than $1.2 million a year removing trash from the UK’s canal system.
They’ve got their work cut out for them; a lock the size of a tennis court contains, on average, 1 bicycle, 1 shopping trolley, 1 traffic cone, 67 glass bottles, 4 tires, 150 plastic bags and 23 cans. That’s a load of garbage!
There must be some kind of national holiday where Brits sink shopping carts into canals, because there were 24 shopping carts found in Sheffield lock alone! But they’re not the only popular item to be thrown in canals.
Safes are also frequently pulled up from the mud, with 14 opened safes found in the River Lee in 2015! This is a common tactic used by thieves who, after removing the contents, dump the stolen safes in canals to wash away their fingerprints.
At least that has an explanation, though other items have been dumped in canals without any apparent logic. Like not one, but two pizza delivery mopeds, complete with soggy pizzas, found on the bottom of Regent’s canal!
The thought of losing a perfectly good pizza to the canal is pretty devastating, but it doesn’t compare to losing a pet in it! Except a scaly swimmer appears to have been deliberately released by its owner! A 16-foot reticulated python was found dead by the Liverpool and Leeds canals!
These giant snakes can grow up to 23 feet long and require a feast of three rats or a large rabbit every few days to keep them from getting hungry. But in this case, it appears the owner got tired of taking care of it and let it fend for itself in the wild for a few days in the wild.
However, the snake didn’t last long in the UK’s suburbs, as they’re native to the warm climates of South Asia and so instead it sadly succumbed to a respiratory disease. Though before this giant snake kicked the bucket, it must have gone for a swim in the canal, which then became it’s watery grave.
Nevertheless, getting rid of gigantic pet pythons this way seems to have become a trend, as a 10-foot snake was also found decomposing in a canal at Huncoat! Meanwhile, an even bigger 18-foot albino python was discovered dead in the Grand Union Canal in Aylestone!
The Sunken Secrets Of A Paris Canal
Paris is the heart of France, and home to the famous Canal Saint-Martin. This seemingly picturesque waterway runs 2.8 miles through the trendy tenth district of Paris. However, every 10 to 15 years the canal is drained, revealing a weird plethora of objects that have been thrown into the water!
When the canal was drained in 2016, no less than 100 Vélib bikes were removed from the mud! Vélib is a bicycle sharing system where people can hire a bike for the day and ride it around the city, before dropping it back off at a Vélib bike rack. But many of these bikes were also stolen, ripped from the bike racks, and thrown in the canal after use.
Though bikes weren’t the only things Parisians dumped into the canal, as other items dredged up included shopping carts, an old road roller, several scooters and mopeds, and even a wheelchair!
And looking at some of the other stuff they found, such as a mattress, a toilet, a bathtub, and a washing machine, you could furnish an entire apartment solely with canal finds!
Magnet Fishing Findings
If you give a poor man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime and if you give a man a magnetic fishing rod, chances are he’ll find a weapon and steal all the fish he wants!
Magnet fishing is a popular hobby where a neodymium magnet is attached to the end of a fishing line and used to trawl through bodies of water. The magnets used are strong enough to fish out old bicycles, rusty tools, and, a surprisingly common find, guns!
Nigel Lamford was magnet fishing in the Royal Union Canal over in the UK when his line caught on something, and he soon hauled out an arsenal of not one, not two, but six submachine guns! But this was just the tip of the iceberg, because Nigel has fished more than 61 guns from the canal!
A particularly crazy find considering the UK has incredibly strict gun control laws, making almost all gun ownership illegal. But these guns are actually World War 2 relics from some 70 years ago! The STEN submachine gun was one of the most widely used weapons by the British forces during the war, with over 2 million made!
So how did these 6 get here? Well, the Union canal runs through the Royal Ordnance Depot, an ammunitions storage facility that’s been active since 1802! The guns probably tumbled into the canal accidentally when they were being transported during the war.
Though that’s not the only WW2 relic left behind. In May 2022, another magnet fisher found a grenade in the Oxford Canal in Banbury! A bomb squad collected the grenade inside an armored box and detonated it at a safe distance.
Scary as it would be to find a grenade, Britain’s magnet fishers have found even deadlier weapons hidden in canal waters. An Uzi Mac 10 submachine gun, for instance, was pulled up from a London canal alongside a knife and a bullet magazine!
Worryingly, these guns are capable of firing 600 rounds a minute and are commonly used by the Israeli army. However, the model now illegally circulates in London gangs. But with police constantly cracking down on their use, it’s no wonder this one was dumped in the canal.
Magnet fishing is also pretty popular down under! Young magnet fisher Adam Gee uses a 65-foot rope to trawl the depths of the Brisbane River, which at its deepest is more than 49 feet deep. His magnet has a 254-pound pull force and is easily able to dredge up street signs, shopping carts and old tires from the riverbed.
Meanwhile, in rivers located in the Fenlands, a naturally marshy region in eastern England’s sleepy countryside, magnet fishers have revealed a whole hidden underbelly of crime over the years! They’ve pulled out just about every weapon imaginable: machetes, handguns, bullets, knives, hammers, knuckle dusters, even a steel axe!
Mosul Dam Drought Reveals Ancient City
The Mosul Dam is an imposing structure, towering 371 feet above the terrain of Iraq. It’s the largest dam in the country and is vital for the country’s water supply. So, when severe drought plagued the country in 2019, water levels were dropped to unprecedented levels to save farmland and crops from drying out.
However, in doing so, something strange began to emerge from under the reservoir lake, the walls of an ancient 3,400-year-old palace!
Archeologists scrambled to the scene, racing to uncover the Bronze Age sight before the dam was refilled. They uncovered mud-brick walls that were 6 ½ feet thick and stood more than 6 foot high, along with wall paintings in shades of red and blue! The palace was a long-lost relic of the Mittani Empire, one of the least studied empires of the Ancient Near East that existed from 1550 to 1350 BC. That’s over 3000 years ago!
Archeologists also uncovered five ceramic vessels that contained more than 100 tablets inscribed with ancient script. These could provide a vital keystone for unlocking the mysteries of the Mittani Empire, such as their systems of money, trade, and religion!
The original cause of the city’s submergence was a devastating earthquake that struck the region sometime around 1350 BC. A silver lining of this earthquake is that the upper parts of the walls buried most of the buildings, preserving them over millennia for archeologists to later study!
However, the archeological party soon came to an end when the dam had to be refilled. Though this probably won’t be the last we see of this ancient city; with climate change raising global temperatures, droughts are becoming more and more common. Who knows what else will be uncovered under other dried-up bodies of water!
Turning Off Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is, without a doubt, one of the most majestic sights in North America! This stunning feature is composed of three distinct waterfalls, the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Canadian Falls.
Over 700,000 gallons of water plunges over these falls every second, and it’s thought to be the fastest moving waterfall in the entire world! But have you ever wondered what would happen if you turned the water off?
Well, the US Army Corp of Engineers decided to put that idea to the test back in 1969. Not by installing a giant plughole in the Niagara River! Rather, over three days in June 1969, more than 1,200 trucks offloaded 28,000 tons of rocky-fill into a cofferdam, an enclosure built within a body of water, upstream of the falls.
This rocky pile then diverted the water of the Niagara River away from the American Falls to instead rush over the larger Canadian Falls. Meanwhile, the famous American Falls waterflow was reduced to nothing more than a trickle!
The reason for the drainage was because engineers were concerned that the debris at the bottom of the falls would cause a blockage. So, with the water gone, engineers put their boots on the ground, and were shocked at the disturbing discoveries they made!
Among the rocky rubble, not one, but two corpses were laid out. Though in most abundance was millions upon millions of coins! Each of them thrown in by visitors making a wish! Most of the coins and both corpses were removed, and in November 1969 the cofferdam was slowly deconstructed, and the American Falls roared to life once more!
There is discussion of turning the Falls off once again to repair the bridges that cross above the waterfall. I wonder what they’ll find at the bottom this time, most likely there'll be millions of dropped iPhones after selfies gone spectacularly wrong!
Overall, around the world, drained canals and dried bodies of water have unearthed some truly amazing finds! If you were amazed at these discoveries, you might want to read our article about incredible metal detector finds. Thanks for reading!