Be Careful What You Touch

By Tim Schmieding

There is a place I used to frequent with a dive club on the St. Clair River in Marine City, north of Detroit.

A little background on this location 

Many years ago, when people lived near the river, they thought it was a great place to throw their garbage. They were not environmentalists. Our dive club took it upon ourselves to go “garbage picking,” looking for old and forgotten items. A friend of mine found a complete set of Depression glass and old bottles. I found clay pipes, often used by passengers on boat taxis to smoke. They had long stems, and after you used them, you would break off the end and leave it for the next person.

Our usual dives 

My buddy and I were going to do a river dive near Port Huron, Michigan. We had done many before, and this was a particularly nice day.

Our typical dives are:

  1. By the ship marker, just south of the bridge, at an exit near the Coast Guard station.
  2. From the Coast Guard station we exit near the YMCA building. 
  3. Entering by the YMCA and exiting by Black River. If we have two cars, one is positioned at our exit. This time we only had one car, but it was a nice day for a walk. I returned to our entry point to get the car and gear.

Dive 1 

Our first leg was fun. The current was about 6 knots and it was a negative dive profile. If you are neutral, you go very fast, which is another dive, altogether. While looking around, we saw a few boat wrecks, bicycles, fishing lines and lures. We used to collect large triangular weights, I believe ¼ pound, but that was another dive. This one was just drifting lazily down the river and sightseeing until we reached our exit point.

Dive 2 & what we found

On our second leg, we were looking around and my buddy found a pipe with some wires on it. He was looking at it and gave it to me. I played around with it and my dive buddy started making hand gestures that looked like an exploding balloon. At first, I didn’t understand him, but my buddy was insistent, and after watching his hand gestures it dawned on me…it looked like a pipe bomb. A footlong piece of pipe with wires and what looked like a digital read out on one end. I stopped playing immediately and gently replaced it on the river bottom. I noted the depth and time to figure out a rough distance and we continued our dive.


When we were done, we went to the Coast Guard station and told them what we found. They suggested calling the local police. We did, but they in turn asked us to call the State police. This was not fun anymore, and we were still not sure if it was real. We believed it might be, but something in our heads said otherwise. It was our first “pipe bomb”. The state police called the county police and reported it with our statement.

So, what did we find? 

What we found was a “dummy” pipe bomb. The county put it down there for their divers to find and treat as a real threat. We were told if we looked a little more towards the shore, we might have seen a camera recording the whole time. I don’t know if it was recording when we were there. If so, it might have looked ridiculous two guys tossing a pipe bomb around until they realized what it might have been.

Afterward we had an interesting conversation and came to an important conclusion. If you do not know what it is, don’t touch it. There is so much junk on the river bottom that we just assumed it was junk with zebra mussels attached to it. Had we been unlucky right next to the Coast Guard station, it could have been a fumbled attempt to cause problems for them.

If you’re not sure what it is, don’t play with it!

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