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'Unexploded ordnance' in New Hampshire cove turns out to be wagon wheel

By ELIZABETH DINAN | Portsmouth Herald, N.H. | Published: August 11, 2018

NEW CASTLE, N.H. (Tribune News Service) — Four days after a scuba diver reported seeing an "unexploded ordnance" in Hart's Cove, the Coast Guard determined it was "an old wagon wheel."

Coast Guard public affairs officer Lt. Chellsey Phillips said Navy divers went into the cove Thursday and she received confirmation that the suspicious item was a wagon wheel early Thursday afternoon.

"Better safe than sorry," she said.

An unexploded ordnance is defined as an explosive device that was not previously detonated.

Police Chief Don White on Thursday responded to the area, upriver from the University of New Hampshire pier, where boats are moored and bobbing buoys indicate lobster traps below. He said the cove is deeper in the center, where scuba divers have been diving for relics for decades.

White said he was notified Sunday about the report of a suspicious device below. After that report, Phillips said, marine safety broadcasts were made every 30 minutes to warn people not to dive or anchor in the cove because, "safety is our first priority."

Phillips said the Coast Guard notified the Navy Explosives Ordnance Team in Virginia and the New Hampshire Division of Ports and Harbors as a precaution.

Terry Martin, a diving instructor for Portsmouth Scuba, told the Portsmouth Herald that Hart's Cove is known among scuba divers as a favorite location for treasure hunting. Many relics found by local diver Jay Gingrich are on display at the 915 Sagamore Ave. dive shop, including a table he had made from a large boat propeller he hoisted from the bottom of Hart's Cove and now supports a round glass top. In a pair of cabinets at the shop, artillery shells and cannon balls made from metal and wood are displayed, and all were found at the bottom of Hart's Cove, Martin said.

Gingrich also found a pair of old cannons underwater in the cove, where there's a shipwreck nearby, she said.

"It's known for treasure hunting," Martin said. "It was the shipping harbor in the 1600s and 1700s."

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