Divers with High Tech Equipment Continue the Search for Babe Ruth’s Piano

Published April 14, 2002 | Informational - Historic Articles | Automatically Archived on 4/28/2002

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Electronic assault on Willis Lake reveals artifacts, but no piano…yet.

Electronic experts from all over New England threw a variety of electronic instrumentation at Willis Lake last Saturday afternoon under the watchful eyes of more than 100 spectators. Their take? One sailboat rudder, one quart whisky bottle with “Chelmsford” on the side and a dozen golf balls.

But alas, despite all the talent and the efforts of the Quincy Underwater Recovery Team, no piano.

Make that no piano just yet. On the last dive of the day one diver reported sighting two pine boards stuck in the sediment in a vertical. Since the Restoration Project, sponsor of the dive, has no salvage permit, the boards were marked by a global positioning system for future reference.

Divers reported that there was still a frozen crust over layers of sediment, making it difficult to spot foreign objects on the bottom.

Bill Campbell, owner of Ocean Eye ocean imaging donated his time and the use of a remote operated vehicle (ROV) which cruised the bottom with a TV camera and powerful floodlights. It stirred up chunks of bottom sediment, a beer can and several golf balls.

Coordinator Eloise Newell of the Restoration Project said the next step will be a boat-towed magnetometer which is sensitive enough to detect metal through more than ten feet of silt. This instrument ‘s one major drawback is that its readings can be affected by wave motion.

Chris Hugo of the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archeological Research added that sophisticated sonar equipment would penetrate the ten feet or more of silt built up over the years.

The boat rudder and bottle may provide some clues. The fittings on the rudder were made of iron and began to disintegrate upon contact with the air. This led experts to suspect that the artifact may not have been originally intended for underwater use. If it had, non- corrosive metals such as copper or brass would have been used.

The bottle is unusual. It has a narrow neck like a whisky bottle and the word “Chelmsford” on the side the only marking. If it could be dated, it might provide evidence as to when drinking may have taken place at the cottage.

Curt Garfield

Email: [email protected]