For 10 years, John Wilson thought the cargo container he was using as a bridge was empty. Then he opened it and discovered a $2-million engine inside.

"When I saw that jet engine in there, oh my gosh, that's the first thing that come to my head — I'm going to jail," said Wilson, of Bridgetown, N.S.

The bizarre story begins in the mid-1990s.

Wilson said the engines on HMCS Athabaskan were replaced during a refit in 1994. The old engines were completely overhauled and placed in sealed cargo containers. Eventually, the containers were advertised in the Annapolis Valley buy-and-sell flyer — as empty.

Wilson , who needed something to use as a bridge on his property, picked one of the containers up for $400. He never bothered to open it. When he finally did, he also found the service log book for the Pratt & Whitney turbine.

"Everybody wanted the book — the military police wanted the book, Pratt & Whitney  wanted the book — and I found out without the book it can't be sold," Wilson said.

Wilson believes he's the rightful owner and has been trying to sell his find online for months. He said it will likely end up in the United States, where a prospective buyer hopes to use it as a five-megawatt power generator.

Wilson said he's asking for $30,000, though the turbine was worth $2 million at one point.

He said there were seven more containers like the one he bought years ago. Now that he knows what's inside, he's kicking himself for only buying one.