Preservation workers for the Central Park Conservancy found ammunition loaded in a 233-year-old cannon that they were about to begin doing some cleanup on. Workers found the explosives when they removed the concrete plug that had sealed the cannon for so many decades.
Upon discovery, they called New York City Police and the bomb squad arrived to do an assessment.
The NYPD experts examined the antique cannon and found almost two pounds of gunpowder in the cannon's barrel, and when the cannon had been tilted, a cannonball the "size of a melon" rolled out.
"In theory you could have fired that cannon, because the powder was still working.” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the New York Times
The gunpowder had been wrapped in wool. Police removed it and then gave the wool back to park authorities to keep as a historical artifact.
According to CBS News
, the park had been in possession of the cannon since the Civil War. The Revolutionary-era cannon had been on display in Central park from the 1860s until 1996 when the Central Park Conservancy brought it into storage to protect it from vandalism.
CBS News noted that "no one even considered the possibility that British sailors had loaded and sealed it [the cannon] before their ship went down."
Experts believe the cannon was salvaged from the H.M.S. Hussar, a British Navy ship that sunk in 1780 in New York's East River in an area known as "Hell Gate"
. The remains of the ship
have never been found. It is rumored the ship was carrying millions of dollars worth of gold, however the alleged treasure has also never been found.