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Mysterious ‘metal canisters’ found in soil shut down park, National Park Service says

An aerial of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., May 12, 2021. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)

The mysterious origins of two “metal canisters” found in a large mound of soil at a park in Washington, D.C., is under investigation, according to the National Park Service.

Part of Fort Totten Park, located on a Civil War defense site, is shut down over the discovery made by an NPS employee on April 18, the agency said in a news release.

The find caused the U.S. Army to respond and remove the canisters from the park, according to NPS.

The Army will investigate the canisters and any potential contents inside at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, the release said.

The mound of soil containing the canisters looks like it had been “pushed into the park from the road,” according to NPS.

The agency urges people to stay away from areas of the park blocked off by the U.S. Park Police.

The park will remain partially closed “out of an abundance of caution and until more research can be completed,” NPS said.

Metal canister from WWI previously found at Fort Totten Park

In another area of Fort Totten Park, NPS found an empty metal canister from WWI on the ground while working on Fort Totten Trail east of the Metrorail Station in D.C. in July 2020, the agency said.

How the canister ended up in the park remains a mystery, according to NPS.

The canister was handed over to the Department of Defense so the agency could inspect whether it was an “unexploded ordnance,” according to NPS.

Ultimately, the Department of Defense determined it was “unfused and unused” and got rid of it, NPS said.

At the time, NPS didn’t find any more canisters during a search of the park’s trail area, according to the agency.

Fort Totten was built during the Civil War as a northern defense site and was fully constructed by 1863, according to NPS. It was named after the Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army, Brig. Gen. Joseph G. Totten.

The fort was equipped with 20 guns and mortars and a “100-pounder Parrott Rifle,” according to the agency.


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