A Texan jet skier discovered submerged World War I-era ships in the Neches River due to low water levels caused by a scorching drought. Bill Milner reported his find to the Ice House Museum, according to a Dallas Morning News article. They say,
“Scorching temperatures and a relentless drought have revealed an unexpected find on the bottom of an East Texas river: a tangle of wrecked ships from World War I.
A man who was jet skiing Aug. 18 bumped into the wreckage in the Neches River. Bill Milner, who grew up on the river, spent about three hours investigating the wreckage and snapping photos before contacting the Ice House Museum in Silsbee.”
Bill Milner, who found submerged World War I-era ships in the Neches River, aimed to document his discovery for experts’ assessment. Parts of the wreck are now visible, raising safety concerns, according to a Smithsonian Magazine article which details
““I wanted to document to make sure I could share it with someone who may have more expertise than me,” says Milner, who grew up on the river, to Lupita Villarreal and Gloria Walker of KBMT, a local TV station. “I could tell it was a really large vessel.”
Experts have known about the wreck—which actually includes the ruins of several vessels—for years. But now that parts of it are visible, they’re worried about its safety.”
Bill Milner’s discovery of sunken ships in the Neches River wasn’t accidental; he was encouraged by a friend and museum curator to keep an eye out during his regular river trips, according to an NBC News article reporting:
“Bill Milner said a friend, the museum’s curator, urged him to keep an eye out for sunken ships on his regular trips to the river, between Jasper and Hardin counties.
“She said if you got time, go ahead and look for it,” Milner said Wednesday. “It was an accident [finding the shipwrecks], but it wasn’t an accident. I wasn’t just playing around on a jet ski.””
The discovery of sunken ships in the Neches River is due to the exceptionally low water levels, a consequence of the ongoing drought in Texas. Michael Banks commented on the river’s reduced flow, according to a USA Today article. They say,
“Like many Texas rivers this season, the Neches, which flows southeast from Van Zandt County to meet the Sabine River at Sabine Lake near Port Arthur, is running low.
“It’s down a lot,” Michael Banks, co-chairman of Friends of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge, an advocacy group, told the American-Statesman. “We usually get 50 inches of rain a year. There’s still water in the river, and it’s still flowing. But a lot lower than usual. And of course, in a few months it should be overflowing again.””
It’s important to note that nearly 40 sunken ships are scattered in East Texas rivers, forming one of the largest abandonment sites in the U.S. The public is urged not to disturb them. If similar discoveries are made, contact the local county historical commission for proper handling.