Alec Gale dredged up more than mollusks off Lobsterville Beach in the Martha’s Vineyard town of Aquinnah Wednesday. The fisherman found a rusted 40-millimeter cannon shell of the type used by World War II era aircraft.
Mr. Gale brought the shell to the dock in Menemsha Harbor, left it on a shed near the Texaco gas station and called police with news of his catch. Chilmark Police Sergeant Jonathan Klaren called Tom Rancich of West Tisbury.
Mr. Rancich is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, who spent part of his career as a Navy SEAL dealing with disposal of unexploded bombs. Mr. Rancich’s company, VRHabilis, is currently under contract to help the US Army Corps of Engineers in its survey and cleanup of World War II era munitions from former practice sites along the Island’s south shore.
When someone finds a bomb, authorities here notify Mr. Rancich, who determines whether the object is safe to move and store, or whether it is a live bomb that requires a controlled detonation.
After receiving a photo from Officer Klaren, Mr. Rancich advised him not to move the shell, which he later identified.
“The cartridge was sealed and intact, although the nose cone was seriously deteriorated,” Mr. Rancich wrote in a report to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Mr. Rancich moved the cannon shell to a fenced-off location on the beach. That evening, the State Police bomb squad arrived and destroyed it in a controlled explosion.
Mr. Rancich said that although the area off Lobsterville was not used for training purposes, anecdotal reports from local fishermen are that there has been WWII airplane wreckage discovered in that area.