Treasure seekers explore NYC river following claim of mammoth bones

If you asked people what may be buried in the sludge at the bottom of the East River in New York City, they would likely respond “mob boss” before mammoth bones.

After hearing a guest on comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast say that a boxcar’s worth of possibly rich prehistoric mammoth bones were thrown in the river in the 1940s, treasure hunters have flocked to the river in recent weeks.

Despite the absence of evidence to support the claim, treasure hunters have been searching for woolly mammoth tusks in murky waters using boats, diving equipment, and technology such as remote cameras.

“I believe the odds are comparable to the lottery. And others purchase these tickets daily “Don Gann, 35, of North Arlington, New Jersey, a commercial diver who has been on the water with his brother and two coworkers since early last week, stated the following.

John Reeves, an Alaskan gold miner with a fascination for fossils, appeared on the Dec. 30 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” to discuss his land, where he has personally discovered countless ancient bones and tusks. During the first part of the 20th century, prior owners excavated for gold and uncovered a wealth of fossilized prehistoric mammals.

The mummified remains of “Effie,” a young woolly mammoth discovered in Alaska in 1948, are on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Friday, January 13, 2023. AP/Mary Altaffer

Several decades ago, some of this material was transported to New York City and donated to the American Museum of Natural History. Reeves highlighted a draft of a report written by three persons, including a museum employee, that mentioned fossils and bones deemed unfit for the museum being tossed into a river.

Reeves told Rogan, “I’m going to start a bone rush,” before reading from the script and providing a location: East River Drive, now known as the FDR Drive, around 65th Street.

He said, “Let me tell you something about mammoth bones and tusks: they’re extremely valuable.”

The American Museum of Natural History poured East River-cold water on the story after the broadcast aired.

Statement: “We do not have any record of the disposal of these fossils in the East River, nor have we been able to find any record of this report in the museum’s archives or other scientific sources,”

Reeves hung up the phone after telling a reporter to read the pages of the manuscript he had released on social media. He did not respond to additional calls and emails.

Richard Osborne, an anthropologist, Robert Evander, a former employee of the American Museum of Natural History’s paleontology department, and Robert Sattler, an archeologist with a consortium of Alaska Native nations, are identified as the authors of the social media accounts.

According to Sattler, who was contacted by The Associated Press, Osborne, who passed away in 2005, told him about the discarded bones.

Reeves stated that the document he quoted was authentic and prepared in the mid-1990s. However, it was not meant for an academic journal. It was the beginning of something, perhaps a book, based on Osborne’s knowledge of an era in Alaska when mammoth remains were unearthed in abundance. The father of Osborne worked for a corporation involved in the digging.

Sattler stated that Osborne spent time in the vicinity of the operation as a youth and likely heard the story of the bones being dumped in the river secondhand. Sattler stated that he had no information beyond Osborne’s recollections.

Someone would have told him that they dropped excess materials into the East River, he stated.

Some of the mammoth remains unearthed in Alaska ended up to the American Museum of Natural History, where they are still on exhibit.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the East River Drive, subsequently called for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was constructed on fill and pilings along the portion of the Manhattan waterfront where Reeves believed the bones were deposited. The highway was opened to traffic in 1942, which raises the question of how a large number of bones could have been dumped without disrupting traffic.

In the period that Gann has spent hunting for mammoth remains along the East River, he has encountered around two dozen other fossil hunters.

He stated that visibility in the East River is really bad. On a good day, visibility is around one foot. The current is strong near the bottom.

But the ardent diver, who appeared on Discovery’s “Sewer Divers,” has a penchant for seeking out uncommon findings, even if mammoth bones are on a different level than discovering a Paul Revere spoon at an estate sale.

Gann said, “I’ve hunted for weird artifacts my entire life, so this one, it just kind of fits into my repertoire,”

He says it’s disheartening that he and his colleagues haven’t discovered anything, but he’s been inspired to do some of his own historical research. He has shifted his focus to an area south of Brooklyn, claiming it would have been a more plausible location for cargo to have been dropped than the East River off Manhattan.

“If I discover nothing, I discover nothing. I gave it my best effort “Gann said.

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