KURE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — A stroll to find sea shells and shark teeth led to a very unexpected find for a couple who just retired on pleasure island.
It started started as a hunt for sea shells, but the mile long walk ended with the bomb squad at the couples door.
“This will never happen in our lifetime again,” Patti Belanger said.
“We were walking south from our house down to Fort Fisher,” Patti Belanger said. “We look for sea shells. Sea shells and shark teeth.”
Patti and Kerry Belanger’s daily walk on the beach was about to turn into a treasure hunt.
“I looked down into about 6 inches of water and I thought, ‘What is that?’ So I said to Kerry, ‘What is that?’ and he says, ‘It’s a rock.’ But I said, ‘I don’t think that’s a rock.”
Kerry started digging.
“It literally looked like a big bullet.”
Patti says it was too heavy to carry, but she was not going to leave it behind.
“I wasn’t going to let it go. Yeah. No.”
Kerry threw it over his shoulder and they took it home.
“We talked about it a lot. I thought, ‘We just don’t know if this is safe or not.”
So where did she turn? Facebook of course.
“We put that out there and immediately the hits started coming.”
That’s when Patti says they decided to call the police.
“I was sitting in my chair reading a book and I heard a voice behind me say, ‘Hi are you the lady with the bomb?’ And I hopped up and I said yes it’s right over here.”
Patti says she was hiding it under a plastic bag on her porch.
“As I pulled it up, he backed off. He took one look at it and immediately the unmarked cars started showing up.”
Then Patti says the bomb squad showed up.
Lt. Jerry Brewer with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said they determined it is a Union 20 pound Parrott Round from the Civil War. Later, state archaeologists told them it is actually a 30 pound Parrott Round. Brewer said it is one of the most commonly used rounds during the civil war.
“It was actually live.” Patti said.
“It’s actually illegal for them to possess it,” Brewer said. “Any artillery round that hadn’t been disposed of and cleaned out properly is against the law to possess.”
That is why Brewer says they took it away to discharge it. Brewer said if anyone finds something like this, the first thing they should do is call police, because it could potentially explode anytime. Brewer said they have people who are trained at a federal level to discharge them. He said sometimes they can do it easily, but sometimes it will break the shell.
“He sent us a picture and said I’m so sorry,” Patti said. “But I’ll bring you the pieces.”
Sometimes making it safe doesn’t always mean keeping it in one piece.
The next day, the Belangers got all the pieces and instructions on how to put it back together.
“It’s a really great story,” Patti said.
A story about a treasure hunt that they didn’t even know they were on.
“Some people who are the civil war buffs have probably been looking for this all their lives, we’ve been here 3 weeks and it literally just washed up at our feet,” Patti said. “So we feel pretty cool about this whole thing.”
After we spoke to the couple, state archaeologists showed up at the couple’s house to tell them about a state law that prohibits them from keeping the artifact. The Belangers decided to donate their find to the state and it will be on display within six months to a year.
Patti said they get to choose where it will be displayed and it will be displayed in their name. She said they want to keep it on Pleasure Island since that is where they found it.