Second World War landing craft emerges in Lake Mead as water levels drop


Second World War landing craft emerges on bed of Lake Mead as water levels drop to their lowest in more than fifty years due to megadrought

  • A World War Two-era Higgins landing craft has been revealed as Lake Mead’s waters continue to recede
  •  The boat was previously about 185 feet beneath the surface of the lake, but now rests halfway out of the water
  •  As of Friday, the water in in the lake was 1,043.5 feet above sea level. That is 4.5 feet lower than one month ago, over 25 feet down from the same time last year

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New photos show how Lake Mead’s waters have dropped to their lowest levels in history, revealing objects that have laid hidden beneath the surface for years.

Among the latest finds to be revealed by the receding waters is a World War II era landing craft, the same kind that dropped American troops on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944. 

The boat – a Higgins landing craft – was previously about 185 feet beneath the surface of the lake, but now rests halfway out of the water.  

Water levels in Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the US, which is formed by the Hoover Dam River and sits about 24 miles from Las Vegas – have reached their lowest level since 1971.

Levels have been declining for the past few years, as a result of the ongoing megadrought in the southwestern US, as well as increasing demand for water.

In addition to the Higgins craft and a number of other shipwrecks, the skeletal remains of several bodies that some suspect to be victims of Las Vegas’ notorious mob past have been found along the lakes new shorelines. 

The boat - a Higgins landing craft - was previously about 185 feet beneath the surface of the lake, but now rests halfway out of the water

The boat – a Higgins landing craft – was previously about 185 feet beneath the surface of the lake, but now rests halfway out of the water

The World War Two-era Higgins landing craft seen through a tangle of steel cables also revealed by the receding waters

The World War Two-era Higgins landing craft seen through a tangle of steel cables also revealed by the receding waters

The boat was manufactured between 1942 and 1945, and was used for surveying the Colorado River

The boat was manufactured between 1942 and 1945, and was used for surveying the Colorado River

The landing craft was revealed under one-mile from Lake Mead Marina and Hemingway Harbor. It was one of thousands manufactured by Higgins between 1942 and 1945 to transport American troops during World War II. 

It is unclear if the Higgins found in Lake Mead saw duty overseas, but after the war it was for surveying of the Colorado River, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

The boat was then sold to one of the lake’s marinas, before eventually being sunken and used as a breakwater beneath the surface, according to a representative from Las Vegas Scuba, which used to conduct dive tours of the wreck. 

‘As water levels continue to fluctuate and decline, we know that this boat may come to the attention of park visitors both new and returning,’ the National Park Service said in a statement, ‘Lake Mead hopes everyone has the opportunity to learn more about its history and ask that as visitors enjoy the site, they leave it as they found it to avoid damaging the boat.’

The parched shoreline along Lake Mead. The revealed Higgins boat can be seen in the background

The parched shoreline along Lake Mead. The revealed Higgins boat can be seen in the background

As of Friday, the water in in the lake was 1,043.5 feet above sea level. That is 4.5 feet lower than one month ago, over 25 feet down from the same time last year, and at least 54 feet lower than it was two years ago

As of Friday, the water in in the lake was 1,043.5 feet above sea level. That is 4.5 feet lower than one month ago, over 25 feet down from the same time last year, and at least 54 feet lower than it was two years ago

The record low water levels are a result of the worst drought in centuries, with human-caused climate change making it 72 per cent worse, studies have shown

The record low water levels are a result of the worst drought in centuries, with human-caused climate change making it 72 per cent worse, studies have shown

As of Friday, the water in in the lake was 1,043.5 feet above sea level. That is 4.5 feet lower than one month ago, over 25 feet down from the same time last year, and at least 54 feet lower than it was two years ago. 

The record low water levels are a result of the worst drought in centuries, with human-caused climate change making it 72 per cent worse, studies have shown.

With weather patterns expected to worsen, experts say the reservoir may never be full again.

The rocks that form the hard edges of the reservoir offer a stark illustration of just how far water levels have fallen. A white band of mineral deposits stains the mountainsides like the ring on a bathtub, showing where the water was at its high point after a flood in 1983. 

In May, a skeletal body was found curled in a metal barrel along the receding shoreline. Las Vegas police said the body belonged to a man who had died from an execution-style gunshot wound to the head sometime between the mid-1970s or early 80s.

Officials have not confirmed the theory, but many have speculated that it bears all the markings of the sort of gangland hit that would not have been unheard of in the mob-run Las Vegas the victim was killed during. 

The remains of another body found in Callville Bay have been speculated to belong to a 1950s Vegas mobster – albeit one who was killed in an innocent accident rather than as a result of foul play. 

The skeletal body found in a steel barrel along the shores of Lake Mead. Police say the victim inside was killed by an execution style gunshot to the head

The skeletal body found in a steel barrel along the shores of Lake Mead. Police say the victim inside was killed by an execution style gunshot to the head

Another body found along thanks to Lake Mead's receding waters. Todd Kolod thinks these bones may belong to his father, a mobster who died drowned in the lake in 1958

Another body found along thanks to Lake Mead’s receding waters. Todd Kolod thinks these bones may belong to his father, a mobster who died drowned in the lake in 1958

Kolod suspected the bones may belong to his father after seeing a photo of the jaw with missing teeth. His father wore dentures after losing his teeth in a car accident

Kolod suspected the bones may belong to his father after seeing a photo of the jaw with missing teeth. His father wore dentures after losing his teeth in a car accident 

Todd Kolod thinks the body may be that of his father Daniel Kolod – known in the Vegas mob as Ruby – who drowned in the lake in 1958 aged 22, and whose remains were never found.

He fell from a speedboat that flipped when it struck by a wake during a fishing trip with a friend 64 years ago.   

Todd said his suspicions were heightened thanks to a photo of the body that was found – particularly a snap of a skull with missing teeth, as his father wore denture following a car crash which knocked his front teeth out. 

At the time, Todd was three years old. He says that his family told him that his father had ‘went away,’ and that he only learned the grim truth when he was older. 

Todd said in an interview with KLAS that when he heard that remains were found in the Callville Bay section of Lake Mead his eyes ‘bulged wide open.’ 

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