Australian navy divers removed an unexploded 100-pound bomb from a reef off the country’s southeastern coast. Officials decided the bomb posed a “significant risk” to the public. So a military ship towed the explosive to deeper waters.
The bomb was found and photographed by a fisherman on Elizabeth Reef near Lord Howe Island. The island lies about 340 miles off New South Wales state. Along with nearby Middleton Reef, Senior Marine Parks Officer John Pritchard says Elizabeth Reef is the southernmost coral reef platform in the world. The area boasts 125 corals species and over 300 fish species, according to Pritchard.
“It’s quite a unique environment,” he says, “and, because it’s so far from anywhere, it’s relatively untouched.”
Divers aboard the HMAS Adelaide carefully removed the abandoned explosive by floating it to the surface and then towing it farther out to sea. They dropped the bomb into 1,800-foot deep waters.
“That depth is really safe. It’s not going to ever get washed back up onto the reef,” Pritchard says. “There’s no deep-sea fishing or trawling allowed out there. It’s a recreational fishing zone only. The chances of that UXO (unexploded ordnance) ever coming back to the surface is [very small].”
The origin of the bomb is not known. It is too deteriorated for divers to estimate its age, says spokesperson for Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
Bombs of that size were used as long ago as World War I. They were sometimes dropped from aircraft to target submarines. There were bombings off the Australian east coast during both World Wars.
Ley says the fishers and navy divers potentially saved human lives—and one of Australia’s most important reefs.
“The device was regarded as live by the navy, and the consequences could have been quite frightening,” Ley says. “Thankfully the reef’s precious ecosystem is safe and most importantly so are future visitors.”
(Members of the Australian Clearance Diving Team One return to Lord Howe Island, Australia, on a Zodiac inflatable boat following a successful search for unexploded ordnance. ABIS Sittichai Sakonpoonpol/Royal Australian Navy via AP)