Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Military-type matériel was recovered from the bottom of Lake Ontario near Rochester, N.Y., during bottom-trawl, fish-stock surveys at depths of 75 to 180 feet each year from 1978 through 1996. The recovered matériel included many shell detonator nose cones (2 inches in diameter by about 3.5 inches long); several electronic components; one corroded box of detonators; a corrugated container of mercury-filled capsules; and corroded batteries. Most of the recovered matériel has been identified as defective components of shell detonators (proximity-fuze assemblies) that were jettisoned in the lake to protect them from discovery during World War II. Side-scan SONAR, metal-detector, and ROV (remotely-operated-vehicle) surveys found no evidence of any large piles of matériel containing potentially hazardous, toxic, or polluting materials within the 17-square-mile study site. Many scattered magnetic anomalies were detected in this area, but chemical analysis of bottom sediment and of zebra- and quagga-mussel (Driessena spp.) tissue indicate that the concentrations of mercury and other heavy metals are within the previously documented ranges for Lake Ontario sediment. The failure of ROV videos and of SCUBA-diver surveys and probes of the lake bottom to locate any debris indicates that most, if not all, of the debris is scattered and buried under a layer of fine-grained sediment and, possibly, mussels.


U.S. Geological Survey
Open File Report 99-237
Also Contribution Number 1081 of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center

Prepared in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation