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Young Treasure Hunter Turns Find Over To Durham County Bomb Squad

A picture of Eli Aquino with a rusty cannonball.
Tim Duffy

A young treasure hunter uncovered a heavy piece of history, and now it’s in the hands of the Durham County bomb squad.

Ten-year-old Eli Aquino of Hillsborough found a rusted cannonball in the Eno River near Gold Park last week. Eli has been known to collect objects he finds while sifting through the mud wearing swim goggles.

The Orange County Historical Museum and the Durham County Sheriff's Office confirmed it was a Confederate-era Bormann fuse cannonball. General Joe Johnston's troops probably brought it to Hillsborough at the end of the Civil War. The experts also said it was probably still explosive.

Durham County's bomb squad plans to diffuse the cannonball during an upcoming training exercise. Sergeant Mark Manning said the bomb squad could benefit from a training exercise to disarm the cannonball, which probably still contains explosive black powder.

“Well, we're gonna try not to blow it up, because, I mean, it is a cool artifact,” Manning said. “The last one we had like this we tried to diffuse, and, what happened is, it split almost perfectly down the middle.”

That "last time" was when a Durham resident dug up a Bormann fuse cannonball in their backyard last year.

Scott Washington of the Orange County Historical Museum said he'd like to put a remaining piece of the cannonball on display.

Eli's neighbor Cornelius Lewis was with him when the boy found the ordnance. Lewis said turning over the cannonball hasn't deterred Eli from looking for stuff in the river.

“He's just even more excited and he's down there even more than ever with his goggles on and digging through the mud and trying to find the next big artifact or whatever he can get.”

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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