Lake Mead drought reveals WWII-era landing craft as water levels decline

As the mega-drought in the southwest U.S. persists, a landing craft from the Second World War has emerged from the waters of Lake Mead.

Lake Mead, the largest man-made water reservoir in the U.S., has seen staggering declines in water levels as a result of extreme drought conditions.

According to The Associated Press, the Higgins landing craft was originally 185 feet (over 56 metres) under the surface, but is now nearly halfway out of the water.

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The Higgins landing craft, revealed from Lake Mead, sits halfway out of the water.

A sunken Second World War-era Higgins landing craft that used to be nearly 200 feet underwater is being revealed near the Lake Mead Marina as the waterline continues to lower on July 1, 2022 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada.

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The vessel was found less than a mile from Lake Mead Marina and Hemingway Harbor. Lake Mead itself is situated in Nevada and Arizona.

The Associated Press reported that the Higgins landing craft would have been used to survey the Colorado River decades ago, before it eventually sunk.

Higgins Industries in New Orleans built several thousand landing craft from 1942 to 1945, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. About 1,500 “Higgins boats” were deployed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day.

The Lake Mead National Recreation Area National Park Service (NPS) told CNN they suspect the Higgins boat was “put into service on the lake for various reasons and then partially salvaged before it sank in its current location.”

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“Whether it sank by accident or was purposely sunk to get rid of a vessel no longer of use is unclear,” the NPS said in the statement.

NPS also told CNN the vessel had its engine removed and had modified space at the stern of the vessel between two machine gun positions.

CNN reported that production of this specific Higgins boat ceased in 1945, though its fundamental design is still replicated today.

On Monday, Lake Mead stood about 1,042 feet above sea level, down approximately 25 feet (over 7.5 metres) from the same time last year and 44 feet (over 13 metres) below its 2020 depth, according to CNN senior meteorologist Brandon Miller.

This is a new low for Lake Mead, the first of its kind since the reservoir was filled in 1937 after the Hoover Dam was constructed.

Lake Mead is a primary water source for around 25 million people, according to CNN. The outlet reported the decline in water levels is a result of climate change-fuelled drought and an overall increase in water demand.

Thr Second World War-era vessel is not the only discovery to be made in Lake Mead as a result of declining water levels.

Several human remains were also found in the lake. A body — later determined to be someone who was shot dead — was found in a rusty barrel in May.

— With files from The Associated Press 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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