An unexploded bomb that lay dormant at a popular Australian dive-site for more than 40 years has been discovered by a recreational diver – and removed in what proved to be a tricky operation for Royal Australian Navy clearance divers.
The 227kg Mk82 general-purpose bomb was found close to a rock formation known as the Drum & Drumsticks, near the entrance to Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales. It was situated only 30m away from a thriving seal community.
The diver reported his discovery to NSW Police and provided the dive-team with GPS co-ordinates, photographs and descriptions of the site. Police cordoned off the area and monitored local marine traffic while the clearance operation was carried out earlier this month.
The dive-team faced a number of challenges during the sensitive operation, including difficult sea conditions – and simply finding the bomb again.
“The GPS locations that we had changed, so we had to rotate through nearly our whole dive-team,” said the officer in charge of maritime explosive ordnance disposal, Chief Petty Officer Joshua Drennan. “Roughly 11 divers went in the water, two divers at a time, to try to locate it.
“We mainly used visual search, because sonar is very difficult in among the rocks. Everything that looks like a UXO [unexploded ordnance] will paint up like a rock.” Once located, the bomb was towed to a safe location about 3km from shore and detonated.
“We had to go for a very long tow to remove that item outside of the marine park to make sure we weren’t going to damage any of the marine life,” said CPO Drennan. “It’s one of the most popular dive-spots down here, so we needed to make sure it was clear for boating, people in the water and also marine life.”
Clearance Diving Team One is located in Sydney, some 200km further north. It is one of two full-time Navy dive-teams comprising specialists capable of overt and clandestine mine clearance, reconnaissance, underwater damage repair, explosive ordnance disposal and supporting special forces.
Last year Australia’s Defence Department, after initially blaming road conditions, revealed that a ranger’s discovery of topside unexploded ordnance had been responsible for closure to tourists of a popular beach on Jervis Bay’s Beecroft Peninsula. The department said that in the past it had used the area as a weapons range for testing air-to-surface explosive devices.
On the other side of the country, a 50-year-old scuba diver has died following a boat-dive at a popular dive-site off the Cape Jaffa coast in the south-east of South Australia. Emergency services were called to a boat slipway today (15 February) but the man, from the Barossa Valley region, is understood to have died at the scene.