Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Insurgents threaten oil tankers

A device designed to sink ships was found outside Philadelphia, near an oil terminal on the Delaware River. Terrorists? Yes and no. The device was put there by Ben Franklin and the Continental Army to stop the British navy in 1775. If the word had been in common use in those days, the royal government probably would have called Ben Franklin a terrorist. The device, called a cheval-de-frise, is essentially a log sized spear with an iron tip set in the river bottom to puncture unwary ships. Rebel ships would have known the path through the defenses. Most of the chevals were removed in 1784, but this one was missed and has quietly sat in the mud, like a forgotten landmine, endangering river traffic ever since. Sunoco Logistics, who manages the oil terminal, located the cheval with sonar during a routine survey. They have donated it to a local museum.

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