9 Unusual Items Found in Rivers Around the World
What do a brothel token, ice cream trucks, and an ancient Egyptian portico have in common? They've all been found at the bottom of some of the world's most famous rivers. But the treasure trove doesn’t end there. Here are nine unusual items that have surfaced from well-known rivers across the globe.
1. A SHIPWRECK ON TOP OF ANOTHER SHIPWRECK // NEW YORK CITY'S WATERWAYS
A cabin cruiser located at the bottom of the Hudson River near Yonkers (the exact location is kept secret) sits atop an older, flattened shipwreck—"probably a nineteenth century sailing ship," according to New York Magazine.
Other bizarre NYC discoveries include "gribbles" (Limnoria tripunctata), wood-eating isopods that gnaw on the pilings holding up the FDR Drive, ice cream trucks, and just a little further out, the remnants of an early 20th century amusement park. There's also a $26 million collection of silver bars from a 1903 shipwreck lying in the Arthur Kill area, but those have yet to be recovered.
2. ROMAN BROTHEL TOKEN // THAMES RIVER
In 2012, an amateur archaeologist discovered a Roman brothel token near the Thames's Putney Bridge. The bronze token depicts a graphic act of passion; experts believe this “sex token” was hidden beneath the mud for around 2000 years.
3. NILE CROCODILE // RIVER SEINE
In case the grit and grime doesn’t deter you, here’s another reason to forgo a dip in the Seine: In 1984, a 31-inch Nile crocodile was found crawling in a sewer near the popular Pont Neuf bridge. Sanitation workers stumbled upon the reptile while on the job, and called in a zoo vet. It eventually found its way to the Aquarium de Vannes. While its life pre-sewer remains a mystery, the veterinarian estimated the croc spent one to two months living in France’s sewer systems before its discovery.
Over the years, the Seine has seen its fair share of terrifying creatures. Sightings of snapping turtles, snakes, and pacu—relatives of piranhas with an almost uncertainly undeserved reputation for biting off testicles—have all been reported.
4. 15,000 BICYCLES // AMSTERDAM CANALS
Amsterdam, a city of 780,000, has been estimated to have around 2 million bicycles. But as canal cleaners have discovered, bicycles fill more than just streets: Approximately 15,000 bikes are pulled up from Amsterdam’s canals each year.
“Bike fishing” has actually become a popular Amsterdam tourist attraction. The local water company (Waternet) has perfected the activity with a claw and crane device that sits atop a barge.
5. ANCIENT EGYPTIAN PORTICO // NILE RIVER
In 2007, a team of Egyptian archaeologists embarked on the Nile River’s first underwater excavation, hoping to uncover antiquities and shipwrecks from the river’s deep past. Surveying the Nile’s dense, intensely muddy waters wasn’t easy, and required specific gear, including side scan sonar to find artifacts beneath the mud and a GPS, according to Daily News Egypt.
Despite the tough conditions, the historic dive did not disappoint. Archaeologists discovered a portico (covered entryway) for an ancient Egyptian temple. According to a 2008 National Geographic report, the entryway led to the temple of fertility god Khnum. The stone featured inscriptions that date back anywhere from 945 to 525 BCE. The archaeologists also found parts of an ancient Christian church during their dives.
6. SOVIET FIGHTER PLANE AND PILOTS // VISTULA RIVER
In 2015, Poland’s Vistula River reached historically low levels, which unearthed rare World War II artifacts, including a Soviet fighter plane and the remains of its pilots. According to the Associated Press, the plane crashed in January 1945 when Germany’s army was retreating back toward Berlin. The plane was hit while flying low across the Vistula, and ultimately crashed through the ice into the river.
Explorers also found parts of the pilots' uniforms, boots, parachutes, a sheepskin coat collar, and radio equipment with Cyrillic controls.
7. COMPUTER TOWER // RIVERS OF AMERICA
When Disneyland visitors raft over to Tom Sawyer Island, they don’t just drop gum or cellphones in the river (although hundreds do that every year). In 2010, Disneyland employees uncovered a desktop computer tower during a routine maintenance draining.
8. MACHETES AND A SAUNA // LOS ANGELES RIVER
Every spring, the Friends of the Los Angeles River organization hosts a city-wide river cleanup that draws thousands of volunteers, who pick up 70-plus tons of trash and an assortment of unusual trinkets and treasures. Findings from the group’s more than two decades of cleanups include machetes, a sauna, and a phone booth.
9. 18TH CENTURY CANNONS // DETROIT RIVER
According to experts, the Detroit River's muddy waters obscure numerous museum-worthy relics. Between 1980 and 2011, divers pulled up six separate cannons dating back to the 1700s, according to a recent story in the Detroit Free Press. And those cannons, which were likely part of a stash kept by British soldiers before the War of 1812, represent just a small portion of the treasures on the river's bottom (which, given the visibility issues, divers can usually only locate by touch). In November, a 6000-pound anchor belonging to Greater Detroit—a 2100-passenger steamship which traveled the Great Lakes from 1924 to 1950—was recovered; there are also rumors of Prohibition-era vehicles, like a Model T, on the river's Canadian side. (Divers need a federal permit to explore there.)