Deep in the recesses of a cluster of one-time Army buildings in Wall Township, a 900-pound piece of history sits crusted and rusted in a trough of water, waiting to take its place among other relics once lost in maritime disasters.
Like many artifacts recovered from shipwrecks by deep sea divers, the 210-year-old cannon was a closely guarded secret. Plucked in 1996 from a wreck off the coast of New Jersey, it sat for most of the time since then in a vat of water in the backyard of a Manasquan home.
But a group of New Jersey divers, eager to share their finds with the public, have opened a portal to history by showcasing objects like the 5-foot long iron cannon and other items that date back to a time when ships were the primary mode of transportation.
"A lot of these items were stored in people's garages, houses and basements," said Dan Lieb, president of the New Jersey Historical Divers Association.
"We had collected so much information over the years we felt it was incumbent on us to open it to the public."
The divers don't just retrieve items. They research each piece so they can tell its story: who owned it, why it was aboard the ship, where it was going, what role it played in the evolution of society.