Mystery object’s removal from the sands off East Beach creates more questions

Mystery object’s removal from the sands off East Beach creates more questions

The Westerly Sun


WESTERLY — The mystery endures.

A crowd of nearly 100 people gathered on East Beach Thursday morning to watch as an excavator crawled into the sea to remove a strange object embedded in the sand about 6 feet out. Others, in boats, observed from the sea side.

The circular object with eight legs and of unknown origin and purpose has captivated the imaginations and attention of many for several weeks since its presence was first revealed.

When the 45-minute-long operation was completed, the object had been removed in pieces, but it proved to be larger than expected. Its unexpected girth dispelled what had been the seemingly most solid theory on what the object could be.

“Our best guess had been that it was the sea base of an acoustic Doppler profiler, which the scientists said are typically 4 or 5 feet long. But this appears to be about 8 to 10 feet,” said Peter Brockmann, East Beach Association president. “So the mystery is not solved. We still don’t know what it is.”

Acoustic Doppler profilers are used by scientists to monitor currents and underwater sediment flow.

The association, which cares for the beach, hired Sacco Enterprises of Charlestown to pull the mystery object out of the water. Brockmann had spent weeks on research. He spoke with retired Naval officers, the Stonington harbor master, local fishermen and scientists at the University of Rhode Island.

“It’s been a big distraction, and it’s been fun and very interesting. I’ve spoken with a lot of very knowledgeable people. A lot of people are interested and want to know what this thing is,” Brockmann said.

The object will now be stored at an undisclosed location. Brockmann said he hopes media coverage spurs an answer.

“Maybe someone will see a photo or video and contact us to say what it is,” he said.

Some of the amateur sleuths in attendance Thursday developed imaginative and fanciful theories.

“It’s going to put the United States and Westerly on the map if it is a UFO. If not, it’s a fun and entertaining day at the beach,” said Gus Kellogg, 12, who came to watch with his dad, Charlie.

Charlie Kellogg had a slightly more serious take.

“It’s odd that an alien would drop off a NOAA buoy,” he said, referring to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really fun, a curiosity.”

Tori Holt, who has been spending summers at Watch Hill for her entire life, learned of the presence of the mystery object on Wednesday.

“I was on the beach yesterday and heard about it, and then this morning the excavator went by my house, so here I am,” Holt said.

Holt said she was grateful for the East Beach Association’s willingness to remove the object, which presented a potential hazard to swimmers.

“I’m impressed that the community has organized this effort for the safety aspect,” Holt said.

For the Brockmanns, the morning’s event was a family affair. Paul Brockmann, Peter’s brother, swam out to the object before the removal operation began and later watched from the beach. Bob and Marilyn Brockmann, Peter and Paul’s parents, brought beach chairs and also looked on.

“We raised seven children on this beach. We’ve seen huge logs and all kinds of debris, but not something like this. It’s a hazard and has to be removed,” said Bob Brockmann, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Merchant Marine.

At 10:09 a.m., about 20 minutes before full low tide, Sacco maneuvered the excavator into the water and started digging. Initially he focused on trying to create an underwater trench about 4 feet from the longest visible piece of the object. The idea, at the time, was to dig out below the item and then scoop it out in one piece, but that approach proved to be unfeasible. Parts of the object were buried under about 7 feet of sand.

When it was completely removed, Brockmann and others leaned the pieces together to show what it would have looked like had it remained intact.

“It’s baffling, it isn’t what anyone thought it was,” Peter Brockmann said.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com


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