World War II-era ship emerges in Lake Mead amid climate impacts

ByKyla Guilfoil via ABC logo
Thursday, July 21, 2022
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The vessel, a Higgins boat used for beach landings during WWII, comes to the surface after the same receding waters have revealed multiple bodies, sunken pleasure boats and a myriad of previously-submerged items.

A sunken WWII vessel has surfaced on Nevada's Lake Mead, the National Park Service said, as its waters continue to recede amid rising temperatures and drought.

The vessel, a Higgins boat used for beach landings during WWII, comes to the surface after the same receding waters have revealed multiple bodies, sunken pleasure boats and a myriad of previously submerged items.

The boat was originally so far under the surface that the National Park Service sent divers looking for it in 2006.

During those expeditions, the craft's engine was removed and the boat received modifications to open the space between the two machine gun positions towards the stern, a spokesperson from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area said.

The Associated Press reported the vessel was 185 feet underwater. Now, new photos show the vessel emerged from the lake's surface, exposing the bones of the long-lived ship.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area said it anticipates more artifacts to emerge as the water levels continue to recede, which they are expected to do, a spokesperson told ABC News.

"Lake Mead has a storied history in its 90 years as a National Park Unit with a variety of cultural and historical artifacts. As water levels recede and fluctuate, it is possible that artifacts we do and don't know about may show themselves," the spokesperson said.

According to the Lake Mead National Recreation Center, the waters at the reservoir have dropped 160 feet after decades of "unprecedented drought" in the area.

While the reservoir is still open to visitors, its landscape is changing with increasing speed.

According to the spokesperson from Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the reservoir's current elevation as of July 12 is 1,041.9 feet, which is the lowest water elevation of the area since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s.

There is no significant relief in sight for Lake Mead, as it is projected to continue losing water, officials said.

However, Lake Mead officials do not expect any significant negative change or impacts to area wildlife or sensitive habitat, a spokesperson told ABC News.

Lake Mead is currently at 30% capacity, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. It reached its peak elevation in July 1983, at 1225.44 feet.

The depletion of Lake Mead, the largest U.S. reservoir, poses challenges to the several states that rely on its water supply.

The reservoir was formed after the construction of the Hoover Dam in 1931 on the Colorado River, according to the National Park Service.