The National Park Service’s Gulf Island National Seashore– which includes a number of coastal defense positions and Third Period forts (Barrancas and Pickens) around Pensacola, Florida as well as Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island off Gulfport– has closed a section of Perdido Key.
The reason? Almost 200 19th century shells, some still live.
Following Hurricane Ida, military munitions were discovered near the far end of the seashore’s Perdido Key Area. This event has resulted in a temporary closure of the area, with an abundance of caution should there be additional undiscovered munitions still buried.
The area where the munitions were found is closed and marked with signs. Visitors walking or boating in this area are prohibited from entering. Staff will be monitoring and patrolling the area regularly.
“The park continues to monitor the area for newly discovered munitions and will secure the site(s) should any be found in the future,” said Darrell Echols, GUIS Superintendent. “Our goal is to ensure that the area is safe for the visitors and staff, and that cultural resources are protected.”
More than 190 cannonballs were detonated in September within park boundaries with help from other federal agencies. No more unexploded ordnances have been identified. Munitions found within national park boundaries are considered cultural artifacts and are protected by law. It is illegal for the public to harm, deface, damage, or remove these items.
It’s a shame that some of the shells weren’t saved, as surely not all were live, but I guess the NPS has enough on hand for their exhibits. Plus, if they would have said some weren’t dangerous, you can bet the would-be collectors would be sifting Perdido Key until all the Sea Oats were gone and the key itself washed away.
However, as someone who has grown up in the shadow of Vicksburg, Port Gibson, and the Battle of Mobile Bay battlefields, I can vouch that there are hundreds of old shells on mantles across the Gulf South– many still with fuzes.
Not saying it’s the safest thing in the world, and I wouldn’t recommend it, just making a statement that they are more common than you think.