Historic Eagle Cannonball Provides Excitement – and a Safety Reminder

Cannon Ball FoundIt was Eastern Interior Field Office archeologist Robin Mills who received the memorable phone call. An Eagle resident had an old cannonball at her residence, and she was concerned it might still be dangerous. Mills passed the information on to the BLM’s hazardous materials and safety specialists.

A flurry of calls and emails ensued as the State Troopers, the National Park Service and an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team from Eielson Air Force Base were brought on board. Soon the EOD team set off on a 357–mile drive to Eagle to examine the cannonball.

What the team found upon their arrival was a 12-pound iron ball roughly five inches in diameter. The cannonball was apparently found many years ago near Fort Egbert, a historic Army outpost established in 1899 to impose law and order in the Fortymile region following Interior Alaska's first gold rush. The BLM now manages the fort, decommissioned in the 1920s, as part of the Eagle Historic District National Historic Landmark.

Unsure whether the cannonball contained explosives, the EOD team moved it to a safe place and subjected it to a series of controlled tests, during which it exploded with no injuries or property damage.

The unusual setting, age, and type of ordnance make this a colorful story. But the larger scenario – the public encountering dangerous military ordnance on public lands in Alaska – is unfortunately far from unique. Although injuries or deaths are rare, hunters, survey crews, firefighters and recreationists periodically encounter military munitions on public lands, often but not always in areas known to have been used as military training grounds.

In all cases, the best thing to do if you encounter something you suspect to be military ordnance— no matter what kind or how old it may appear— is stay away and report it to authorities.

The Department of Defense advises the public to remember the 3 Rs:
Recognize - be able to identify ordnance.
Retreat - don't touch it and get away from it.
Report - try to mark the spot where it was found and then report it to authorities.

For more information on this topic, visit the Department of Defense’s unexploded ordnance safety page.