ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Norman James has seen the USS Inaugural minesweeper sink and rise again. The first time, he was crossing the Poplar street bridge when he watched it go down.
“Actually I was driving across and I seen this big boat come across. We was trying to hurry up and get across the bridge. It was just like once we came across we saw it on the news that it had crashed and ended up here. This is where it’s been ever since.” said Breckenridge Material Driver Norman James.
It was during the flood of 1993 that the USS Inaugural broke free from it’s mooring under the arch and crashed into the Poplar street bridge. Eventually the ship sank South of the MacArther Bridge. About 700 ships that have been recorded as shipwrecked on the stretch of the Missisppi between Cairo and Hannibal.
More may surface as the water level drops into the winter from this summer’s drought.
“Most of what’s going to be coming up is river training structures, bank strengthenings, uh dikes, things like that. Which to the uneducated eye will sometimes look like posts of wood standing up out of the water. But most of the time you’re going to see more of those than you are giong to see ships themselves.” said Army Corp of Engineers Archeologist Mark Smith.
Don’t let the surfaced shipwreck sink you. The riverbed when it’s this dry can be dangerous. Visiting the ship could mean taking your life into uncharted territory. Unconsolidated sand located next to a dredge channel can slip away.
The second thing to remember is that by law the ships belong to the state. So hands off anyone looking for the lost treasure of Mark Twain. Watch with your eyes, not your hands. From the shore, like Norman James.