EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — If loose lips sink ships, it’s a mystery why no one can explain the story behind a shipwreck off the bank of the Connecticut River.

Officer Woodrow Tinsley said he was on an exercise with the police department’s dive team when he kept hearing talk of a shipwreck right off the shore of Great River Park in East Hartford.

“Everyone on the team kept talking about this shipwreck,” Tinsley said, “so I asked around, and maybe 10 people who worked for the town knew about it. I had no idea it was there.”

Tinsley is an avid diver outside his work on the dive team, he said, even operating his own dive training business, New England Ski & Scuba in Vernon. The news of the wreck piqued his interest, spurring him to take the plunge and investigate it on his own.

Tinsley said the vessel, a schooner that he has estimated to be about 85 feet long, is partially buried in the river bottom and has no immediately visible identifying markers.

Tinsley said he was impressed at the condition of the ship, which lies on its port side. In spite of some minor damage, the hull remains intact.

“It’s an amazing shipwreck,” he said.

As of last week, Tinsley had just completed his sixth dive to the schooner. While he’s found relics such as pottery and pieces of china that date back to 1869, he’s found nothing yet that can identify the ship.

But it’s likely the ship isn’t as old as some of the discovered items would indicate, Tinsley said.

According to one report from a Riverfront Recapture ranger, the tale dates back to the 1970s.

“The story goes that it went down in Wethersfeld Cove in the early 1970s, and the owner resurfaced it and brought it to East Hartford, where he anchored it in Great River Park,” Tinsley said. “That’s where it went down again.”

Instead of recovering the ship for a second time, the Army Corps of Engineers weighed it down so it wouldn’t float down the river, Tinsley said.

So far, though, he’s found no evidence to confirm that interpretation of events and said any police report on the sinking would have long since been destroyed.

Tinsley said his knowledge of the ship thus far comes from the local historical commission, which refers to it as “the Empire Wreck,” and Riverfront Recapture, which refers to it as the “Kilarney Wreck,” and also what he’s seen with his own eyes.

“What we need, which we haven’t found so far, is something that could definitively identify it, like a model number or a serial number or nameplate,” Tinsley said.

Unfortunately, the time left for Tinsley to identify the wreck during this diving season is running out.

“It’s just a mystery that is going to unfold, and the only way to do that is to get more dives,” Tinsley said “But the dive season is coming to an end. We’ve got until the end of October, and then we won’t be able to dive again until the summer.”

Tinsley said that although he’s eager to identify the wreck, as a diver, the journey is just as important as the destination.

“Divers spend their whole careers looking for shipwrecks, and here we have one in our backyard,” he said. “It’s a big deal. You get to be an amateur archaeologist. And once we find out, it’ll be a neat thing for the town.”