Marist crew coach Matt Lavin was on the Hudson River with his team a few minutes after sunrise Tuesday when he saw an indistinct shape bobbing on the surface of the water.
As the rowers got closer, they realized they were looking at a Styrofoam rendering of a head, cased in Fiberglas and made to look like a stone statue in the style of ancient Greece or Rome.
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It "looked like something out of a futuristic dystopian movie," Lavin said. "I thought it was Lady Liberty's head."
As in the "Planet of the Apes" Lady Liberty, poking out of the sands on some forgotten shore?
"That's exactly what I was thinking of," Lavin said.
While it was clear the head wasn't of ancient provenance, its origins are a mystery. Lavin said he thinks it was floating downriver, and there's no indication the head was spotted south of Poughkeepsie.
But the Hudson River is a tidal estuary, famously named by Native Americans as "the river that flows both ways" with tidal forces pushing saltwater north from the Atlantic and a current from the river's source flowing downriver to the south. That means it's possible the head could have come from either direction.
"It's a mystery we're trying to solve," said Greg Cannon, the college's spokesman.
Cannon and Lavin believe the head was some sort of decoration, possibly a theater prop. The head may have been severed from a matching body -- a body that, at 30 to 40 feet, would be hard to miss. Users on a pair of Reddit threads also speculated about its origin, but no one's sure exactly where it came from or how it ended up in the Hudson River.
It took about 10 rowers to haul the head from the river onto the Marist boat dock, about a mile north of the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Walkway Over the Hudson. Lavin took several photos of the head on the water and on the boat dock, and the images were making the rounds on several websites Tuesday.
"We're hoping to hear from somebody who might know where it came from," Cannon said.