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British Town Worried About WWII Ammo Ship Wreck 471

Radical Rad writes "For 60 years, 1.4 kilotons of unstable world war II bombs have lain in the rusting wreck of a US cargo ship half-submerged on a sandbank in the river Thames. If it explodes it will be one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever with predictions of a 3 kilometre high wall of mud, water, and metal fragments causing devastation to the nearby town of Sheerness in Kent." The BBC has more.
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British Town Worried About WWII Ammo Ship Wreck

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  • Phew! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:07AM (#10036045)
    Glad I still had time to change the vacation plans!
    • by celeritas_2 ( 750289 ) <ranmyaku@gmail.com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:32AM (#10036349)
      I have to say that watching fourteen hundred tons of the good stuff turn a river and small town into a crater would be the coolest thing to see all year. I'd even help everyone who was unforturate enough to have a house nearby clean it up.

      But WAIT!!!!you're telling me that a large abandoned ship full of explosives existed exposed to the outside world for sixty some years and it WASN'T looted by hordes of pyro teenagers? There must be something fundamentally wrong with the teenagers across that ocean. Methinks not enough good ol american made rednek would fix it right up.

      GITTERDUN!!!!!!!!

    • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @03:59AM (#10036544)
      Nice to see the mods getting it right: the suggestion that anyone would go to Sheerness for their holiday definitely deserves +5 Funny.
  • What are the odds? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lecithin ( 745575 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:07AM (#10036046)
    After all this time that something is going to happen? Would some of the explosives now be inert?
    • by jrockway ( 229604 ) * <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:09AM (#10036052) Homepage Journal
      Let's go set them off and see! Waiting is no fun!
    • by boisepunk ( 764513 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:09AM (#10036055)
      no, just unstable... which would be scarier than stable explosives
    • Would some of the explosives now be inert?

      Unstable is the word you're looking for.
    • >After all this time that something is going to happen? Would some of the explosives now be inert?

      Apparently, many types of explosives become unstable as they age, meaning that an explosion becomes more likely over time.

      http://safety.utoledo.edu/explosives.asp
      http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&q= explosives+unstable+age
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:17AM (#10036086)
      Another article I read elsewhere said that some of the fuses could be triggered by contact with water (too unmotivated to find the link). The bomb casings have (presumably) started to rust and decay.. if only one bomb casing springs a leak.. it could blow - and set off the rest of the explosives. And if the explosives are water-tight, it means that they aren't decaying...

      Personally I think the town should be evacuated, all the windows boarded up, shipping traffic diverted - and a torpedo lobbed at it from a couple of miles away to set the entire thing off and ensure it's made safe. I wouldn't want to ask anyone to go down there to try and defuse anything - it seems far too risky.
      • by PhillC ( 84728 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @04:40AM (#10036676) Homepage Journal
        Firstly, I'd just like to mention that I've seen this wreck. I was sailing on the Medway and out into the Thames estuary. At low tide the towers and wheel house of this vessel are clearly visible above the water. While there is a buoy marked exclusion area around the ship you can still get pretty close, which is perhaps a worry.

        Anyway, when I got back from my sailing weekend I did a little research on SS Richard Montgomery [ukdiving.co.uk]. The history is that the ship ran aground at neap tide. Troops were busy unloading the ordnance when the ship started breaking up. Further unloading deemed too dangerous. Incidently in later years an oil refinery was built nearby on the Isle of Grain, probably closer than the town Sheerness.

        To quote from one of the articles I found in my research -

        Of the three and a half thousand tons of explosives left, most contain TNT and are impervious to seawater. It is highly probable that their fuses have long since deteriorated and would therefore need something else to set them off. Unfortunately on the deck above these are approximately one hundred and seventy five tons of fragmentation cluster bombs fully armed and ready to go. These are considered to be the main danger, because if the decking collapses these bombs could fall on top of the others and set the whole thing off.

        So it doesn't seem like the fuses are the problem, but the cluster bombs could possibly set off the TNT.

    • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @03:00AM (#10036414) Homepage Journal
      Yes, some of them will be pretty much useless after all of the time, but others will be more unstable.

      Something called "Composition A" is RDX [fact-index.com] mixed with melted wax. That stuff will keep for a LONG time, since no water is going to penetrate the wax.

      RDX has been used as an explosive since the 1920s. It's some powerful stuff.

      Remember Saving Private Ryan? Remember the "sticky bombs"? That was Composition A. You can blow the treads off of a tank with a sock full of the stuff. Imagine what a boatload of it will do.

      We're not talking small quantities of these explosives either, we're talking about a military transport ship.

      That could be dangerous, but nothing compared to the Lost Hydrogen Bomb [charleston.net] that is sitting in the atlantic just off the coast of the US.

      War is nasty business.

      LK
      • That was the easiest registration to bypass. Article text:

        Story on lost hydrogen bomb presents no threat to national security
        BY ELSA MCDOWELL
        Public Editor

        In 1958, a damaged U.S. Air Force bomber dropped a hydrogen bomb in a sound about 20 miles from downtown Savannah after the bomber collided with a fighter plane.

        The Air Force searched for the unexploded bomb for a few months and declared it lost.

        Now, two men believe they have located the bomb under the mud in shallow waters near Tybee Island and are an
  • by el_gibler ( 807201 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:08AM (#10036049)
    Your Friend, O bin Laden.
    • Forget bin Laden, has anyone informed the IRA?

      And from the wiki:

      Named after Richard Montgomery, a celebrated Irish-American soldier of the 18th Century, who was born in Dublin in 1738, elected to congress and later fought against the British in Canada, only to be killed in the assault on Quebec in 1775.

      He'll get his revenge yet... :)

      John

  • Idea... (Score:5, Funny)

    by odano ( 735445 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:09AM (#10036053)
    Lets nuke it and sell the video on PPV.
    • Re:Idea... (Score:5, Funny)

      by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:08AM (#10036972) Homepage Journal
      Isn't there a Nuke [registerguard.com]lying somewhere of the coast of America?

      If I remember rightly, they have also left it there rather than disturb it and possibly set it off.

      The thought of a huge mud flinging explosion is also somewhat reminiscant of the rotting whale carcass [hackstadt.com] left on the beach.
      They decided to use 1/2 a tonne of dynamite, and in the reports words:
      "the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds."
  • by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:09AM (#10036054)
    i cant think of too many things designed these days that would survive 60+ years of being exposed to the elements, especially buried in a sand bank underwater... and then would still work close to specifications...

    yep, they just dont build things the way they used to
    • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:20AM (#10036092)


      > i cant think of too many things designed these days that would survive 60+ years of being exposed to the elements, especially buried in a sand bank underwater... and then would still work close to specifications...

      FWIW, about a decade ago a fishing boat offshore from my home town drew up a honking big WWII bomb. The Coast Guard decided that popping it was the safest solution, which they did in an empty praire reachable by an inland waterway. Everyone for miles around felt their windows rattle, and no one knew what it was until the news carried the story later.

      A friend says when he was a kid a fisherman / WWII vet had another big bomb hanging in his garage across the street from where he lived, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Never figured out whether it was live or not...

    • i cant think of too many things designed these days that would survive 60+ years of being exposed to the elements... and then would still work close to specifications...

      True, but do remember that a bomb basically has one thing to do and only has to do it once. It's not as though it has lots of moving parts constantly wearing and requiring service...

      Want something more impressive? 50,000-year-old paleolithic stone hammers that still work like the day they were new. Now that's quality construction.

    • by PSC ( 107496 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:55AM (#10037187)
      yep, they just dont build things the way they used to

      The Liberty ships were designed with one goal in mind: build ships faster than the German Uboat force could sink them. And they succeeded! The Liberty ships were assembled (from pre-manufractured components) by mostly unskilled labour on the shipyards of Henry J. Kaiser within only 80 hours! On these shipyards, 140 Liberty ships per month would be completed.

      The Liberty ships were never built to last. Their quality was rather poor. Definately not up to todays standards in shipbuilding.

      • by kriston ( 7886 )
        And, in fact, the original design would split in half without warning [mass.gov]. The remedy was to install a steel collar around the entire ship. So much for quality. Very few people talk about quality, or lack thereof, in the Liberty Ships, but as the other poster noted the quality was not necessary to achieve the ships' intended purpose.

        Kris
  • by BlueCup ( 753410 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:12AM (#10036064) Homepage Journal
    hmmm "The government has been advised that doing nothing isn't really a sensible option any more."

    She said the last examination, in 2003, showed the site to be no more dangerous than in the past.

    Alright, according to the article the bombs could detonate at any point spontaneously, but the risk hasn't changed from the past, ... with something having a continuous risk, no matter how small, the chance of it exploding approaches one over time... it seems like something should have been done immediately... certainly not 60 years later. The only excuse I can think of is the hope that the technology would improve enough to find a safer way to safeguard the town, but surely no one thought this would happen quick enough to be worth the risk... this sounds like a bunch of people not willing to take a risk and just waiting for the next person to take on the responsibility... pah.
  • gross negligence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HBI ( 604924 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:15AM (#10036075) Journal
    Who allowed this to happen? I mean, okay, the ship sank there, but why wasn't it cleaned up along with the millions of tons of other war junk from WWII that was disposed of?

    This is a perfect example of the insurance dictum that 'claims do not go away'. You need to settle them (ie, fix the problem).
    • neither do I, not that badly...
    • by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:32AM (#10037023) Homepage Journal
      I think the WWII cleanup effort was somewhat less comprehensive than you seem to believe it was. In fact, French farmers are still finding unexploded WWI(!) shells numbering in the tons every year. War cleanup basically consists of the following steps:
      • Kill remaining bad guys from losing regime.
      • Redraw map, divide spoils.
      • Put out things actually currently on fire.
      • Feed starving masses.
      • Rattle sabres about map/spoils.
      • Rebuild railroads, road systems, power, and plumbing.
      • If some major internal industry is of economic interest to the victors, rebuild that, too.
      The short and direct answer to your question is because we couldn't tow it to Bikini.

      (Which step we are on in Iraq is left as an exercise for the reader)

  • Paraphrasing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rexz ( 724700 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:20AM (#10036099)
    I wish people who are unable to paraphrase effectively would just quote the article directly.

    According to the linked BBC piece, the wave caused by a potential explosion would not be 3km high, it would be 16ft high. The New Scientist makes mention of a 3000m column of debris: that is material would reach a maximum height of 3km. This is entirely different from a tsunami-like wave baselessly alluded to by the Slashdot blurb.

  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:21AM (#10036100) Homepage
    The largest non-nuclear explosion in the free world was the 4,800 tons of ANFO (Ammunion Nitrate/Fuel Oil - ala Oklahoma City) for the Minor Scale event [val-tech.com] that simulated an 8 KTon Nuke from a blast perspective - why 4.8 HE is equal to 8 Nuke is left as an exercise for /.'ers ...

    As a participent/observer, I can attest that (ignoring some misc. issues), it blow'ed up real good! ;-)

    • by c0dedude ( 587568 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:42AM (#10036184)
      Were they actually testing anything, or was this a thinly-veiled excuse to blow shit up?
    • Shameless lifted from Some random page about the Port of Chicago [navy.mil] explosion.

      On the evening of 17 July 1944, the empty merchant ship SS Quinault Victory was prepared for loading on her maiden voyage. The SS E.A. Bryan, another merchant ship, had just returned from her first voyage and was loading across the platform from Quinault Victory. The holds were packed with high explosive and incendiary bombs, depth charges, and ammunition - 4,606 tons of ammunition in all. There were sixteen rail cars on the pier with another 429 tons. Working in the area were 320 cargo handlers, crewmen and sailors.

      At 10:18 p.m., a hollow ring and the sound of splintering wood erupted from the pier, followed by an explosion that ripped apart the night sky. Witnesses said that a brilliant white flash shot into the air, accompanied by a loud, sharp report. A column of smoke billowed from the pier, and fire glowed orange and yellow. Flashing like fireworks, smaller explosions went off in the cloud as it rose. Within six seconds, a deeper explosion erupted as the contents of the E.A. Bryan detonated in one massive explosion. The seismic shock wave was felt as far away as Boulder City, Nevada. The E.A. Bryan and the structures around the pier were completely disintegrated. A pillar of fire and smoke stretched over two miles into the sky above Port Chicago. The largest remaining pieces of the 7,200-ton ship were the size of a suitcase. A plane flying at 9,000 feet reported seeing chunks of white hot metal "as big as a house" flying past. The shattered Quinault Victory was spun into the air. Witnesses reported seeing a 200-foot column on which rode the bow of the ship, its mast still attached. Its remains crashed back into the bay 500 feet away.

      All 320 men on duty that night were killed instantly. The blast smashed buildings and rail cars near the pier and damaged every building in Port Chicago. People on the base and in town were sent flying or were sprayed with splinters of glass and other debris. The air filled with the sharp cracks and dull thuds of smouldering metal and unexploded shells as they showered back to earth as far as two miles away. The blast caused damage 48 miles across the Bay in San Francisco.

      • The OP's 4,800 tons of ANFO probably beats your 5,035 tons of various ordnance. The majority of your figure is probably bomb casings which, being made of steel, weigh significantly more then the explosives within them.

    • The largest non-nuclear explosion in the free world was the 4,800 tons of ANFO

      And the largest non-nuclear explosion in the non-free world was when 1.2 Billion Chinese all jumped simultaneously.

      -
  • by multiplexo ( 27356 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:21AM (#10036102) Journal
    Rather than worry about this they should have a big tourist event around it. Figure out what the safe distance is to view this, fence off two big concentric rings around that, and then sell tickets to watch the show. They could even have different bands playing at different quadrants of the circle before the big blow-off. They could get AC/DC in one quadrant and Judas Priest in another. It would be awesome, and they could make money doing a live PPV event.

    • by hype7 ( 239530 ) <u3295110NO@SPAManu.edu.au> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:44AM (#10036191) Journal
      Rather than worry about this they should have a big tourist event around it. Figure out what the safe distance is to view this, fence off two big concentric rings around that, and then sell tickets to watch the show. They could even have different bands playing at different quadrants of the circle before the big blow-off. They could get AC/DC in one quadrant and Judas Priest in another. It would be awesome, and they could make money doing a live PPV event.


      Funny you should mention that, because it's exactly what they did in Canberra when the Government decided to implode the old Canberra Hospital. They touted it as a big tourist event... you know, come out and see us blow shit up.

      Something went wrong. I think some twit decided to put some barrels of diesel in there for a bigger spectacle. Maybe someone else got the calculations wrong, but debris rained down on the crowd [google.com], some of it very big. Unbelievably, only one person was killed - which is a tragedy, but it had the potential to be a lot more.

      -- james
      • by xixax ( 44677 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @08:25AM (#10037106)
        From my following of the coronial inquiry into the blast:

        The contractor found that the structural columns were not as described on the blueprints, but in fact contained a lot more steel. The cuting charges required for this type of steel were not available in the country and would need to be specially imported (you can't just stick HE on a ship or airplane). Since the contractor was working to a contract that included fairly strong late penalties, he improvised something that was quite a bit faster than the proper cutting charges. Unfortunately the sandbags that were placed around the charges did not prevent large chunks of shrapnel from being launched. A young girl (12 or so) was struck by a piece and killed.

        I went to watch the blast, but from a much longer distance than most other folk (and I made sure there was a large hill between me and the base of the hospital). I was surprised at how close people were, and I was also surprised that more people were not injured.

        Xix.
  • by evn ( 686927 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:24AM (#10036115)

    In 1917 250 tons of explosive gun powder, benzol, and gun cotton loaded on the French ship Mont-Blanc exploded and devastated the town of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ship was carrying supplies to help the war effort over seas. A fire resulting from a collision with a Norwegian ship as the Mont-Blanc was leaving the harbor to join up with a convoy was triggered the blast 28 minutes after the minor collision.

    The death toll rose to about 1,600 in a city with a population near 50,000. An explosion 5 times as powerful in a town 5 times smaller could conceivably wipe it off the face of the earth. 12,000 homes were damaged or destroyed not only by the blast, but also the fires that followed.

    Wikipedia has some more information [wikipedia.org] on the Halifax explosion.

  • by lecithin ( 745575 ) * on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:25AM (#10036116)
    From the article, they worried about more on building/windows getting damaged, not injury. Could they take some time and figure out how to control an explosion to help get rid of the danger?
  • Gilligan? (Score:5, Funny)

    by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) <michaelmtripp AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:25AM (#10036121) Homepage
    Did anybody else think of that episode of Gilligan's Island where Gilligan accidentally brings in a WWII mine while fishing, or was that just my own television warped mind?
  • Wrong post (Score:4, Interesting)

    by okigan ( 534681 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:29AM (#10036136)
    #text#
    In 1970, government tests on the site showed a
    blast would hurl a 1,000ft wide column of water,
    mud, metal and munitions almost 10,000ft into
    the air.

    The shock of the blast would shatter almost
    every window in Sheerness and damage buildings.

    The explosion would also generate a 16ft high
    wave that could sink a small craft.
    #/text#

    where did poster get the "with predictions of a 3 kilometre high wall of mud"????
  • by dr3vil ( 604180 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:36AM (#10036165)
    By coincidence, I had just read the New Scientist's article [newscientist.com] about this, which is the source of the BBC article, but in much more depth and with many more details,
  • Ah... (Score:5, Funny)

    by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) <michaelmtripp AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:39AM (#10036174) Homepage
    I suspect that the reason those articles do not cite a plan of action for defusing these explosives stems from the British governments indecision over whether they would rather protect millions upon millions in property or see a really really cool explosion.
  • by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) <michaelmtripp AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:47AM (#10036200) Homepage
    Too bad it's on the Thames. British people just don't have the same deep appreciation for blowing stuff up that Americans do. I suppose that's one of the reasons we revolted though...
  • by jpetts ( 208163 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @01:57AM (#10036240)
    Go here [sheppeyscum.com]. For more specifics about the offshore explosion hazard click here [sheppeyscum.com].

    (Note: site doesn't appear to work well in Firefox)
  • I have the solution! (Score:3, Informative)

    by SetupWeasel ( 54062 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:02AM (#10036256) Homepage
    What to do if over a kiloton of unstable explosives reside near your town:

    Move.

    You're welcome!
  • UXO (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Big Bob the Finder ( 714285 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:06AM (#10036276) Homepage Journal
    The Brits and the French have a lot of worries with regards to unexploded ordnance (UXO), which we don't have to deal with here in the US. Although there are a few exceptions (minefields at White Sands Missile Range that are, ironically enough, very close to one of the Space Shuttle's emergency landing strips, for example) on military bases, the US is largely free of unexploded munitions, unlike much of the rest of the world. [peoplesgeography.org]

    However, in France, the incidence of UXO is sufficiently high that local farmers plow up "items" on a regular basis. If they are small enough to be moved by an individual, they are taken out by hand and put in drop boxes by the road for ordnance techs to deal with. That's how common they are- farmers turned ordnance technicians.

    While working on a test program with some British ordnance people, a story was related to me regarding buried UXO from WWII. Pipes were filled with nitroglycerin (NG), and buried perpendicular to landing strips in the UK. The idea was that they could be detonated in the event of invasion, rendering the landing strips useless. They were forgotten after WWII, and during construction some decades later, were re-discovered when a pipe containing NG was struck with a backhoe; I believe it killed the operator.

    Making things worse during the remediation effort was that apartments had been built over part of the old runway. The Brits paid to bus the residents to the beach each day, and then bring them back in the afternoon after work for the day had halted. Evidently, they became quite cross when the work was finished a day early and everyone lined up for the buses, and the buses didn't come that day.

    Anyway- the only thing worse than UXO is unexploded, toxic ordnance. [toosvanholstein.nl] Chemical warfare just hasn't been the same since the Chinese invented burning pepper upwind of the enemy, I'll tell ya.

    • Re:UXO (Score:3, Informative)

      by Detritus ( 11846 )
      There are areas in the USA with buried treasures. An upscale neighborhood (Spring Valley, Maryland) near Washington, D.C. was built on top of what used to be a World War I chemical warfare research facility operated by American University. After the war, most of the material was moved to Edgewood Arsenal. In recent years, people have found buried containers of mustard gas, lewisite and misc. unexploded ordnance.
    • Re:UXO (Score:3, Informative)

      by gilroy ( 155262 )
      Blockquoth the poster:

      he Brits and the French have a lot of worries with regards to unexploded ordnance (UXO), which we don't have to deal with here in the US.

      There is, however, a considerable amount of UXO in the coastal waters of the US, remnants of U-boats brought down. Any good navigational chart of New York Harbor, for instance, has many sites marked as "unexploded ordinance" or "sunken U-boat". To be fair, I believe the total tonnage is still way lower than the Brits or French (or, I suspect, Ge

    • by Roy Ward ( 14216 ) <royward770@nOsPaM.actrix.co.nz> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @04:08AM (#10036571)
      > ... which we don't have to deal with here in the US

      Perhaps that's part of why the US _isn't_ one of the 152 countries that have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty (effectively a landmine ban) ... it's easier to make the stuff if you don't have to deal with the consequences on your own soil.
      • by praksys ( 246544 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @04:45AM (#10036689)
        Perhaps that's part of why the US _isn't_ one of the 152 countries that have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty...

        No. The reason is that the US uses landmines to defend the border between North Korea and South Korea. Its easy for those 152 countries to claim that landmines are unecessary when they don't have 30,000 men and women standing in the way of 1,000,000 mental communists.
    • Re:UXO (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

      Although there are a few exceptions (minefields at White Sands Missile Range that are, ironically enough, very close to one of the Space Shuttle's emergency landing strips, for example) on military bases,

      There are problems occasionally when those bases are closed and used for other purposes, military or non. Here in Kitsap County a large tract of military housing, a school, and the Naval Hospital were built on the site of a former ammunition facility. They still find the odd bit of ordinance or poke int

  • by calidoscope ( 312571 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:25AM (#10036331)
    Tell them that the ship is a haven for file-swappers.
  • by bhima ( 46039 ) <Bhima DOT Pandava AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 22, 2004 @02:58AM (#10036409) Journal
    It's common knowledge in the EU (well at least in the eastern bit of it) that at the rate of unexploded bomb removal it will take centuries to remove them all. People die all the time from accidently finding one when they set it off (or setting it of when they try to dispose of it). That's scary enough as it is but these are left overs than generally were delivered (meaning mostly they fell out of planes) so they are by themselves. These are a whole boat load (I think this is the first time in a life time of using the phrase that it is accurate!) of bombs setting next to each other.

    It seems to me it would be good thing to develop a nano or microbial solution (don't they have mushrooms that eat High Explosives or was that diesel?).

  • by John Whorfin ( 19968 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @03:07AM (#10036436) Homepage
    In the US in 197x (no, I don't remember exactly) a munitions train loaded with bombs destined for Vietnam exploded in the railyard (in Roseville, CA). Bombs went off for hours, devastating the surrounding areas. I was a young kid in the area at the time. All I remember was, "Mommy, is that thunder?" Followed by "Get in the house!"

    Anyway. That's not the best part. A few years ago they were doing some construction in the area when a backhoe hit something... something metal.

    Oops.

    Well, they called out the bomb squad, who said 'fsck it!' and called the military, who decided to blow the thing in place. Many windows in the area gave their lives.

    After that they used ground penetrating radar in the area and declared the area "cleared".

    End of story? Nope.

    A week later "tink"... a backhoe hit something... something metal. It seems that, and this is just priceless, when they did the ground penetrating radar passes, they only went for POSITIVE matches, i.e.: it had to look like a bomb on radar. Well, come on, the area is littered with shrapnel and train debris even 30 years later.

    After much flogging, they did more radar and found not 1... not 2... but EIGHT 250-lbs bombs in the immediate area.

    Anyway, I hear houses in the area can be had cheap :).
  • by dimss ( 457848 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @04:55AM (#10036714) Homepage
    In Soviet Army huge amounts of TNT were used to emulate nuclear explosion. Eyewitness of one such explosion told me that they exploded entire cargo train of TNT. It was cheaper and less dangerous than atomic bomb, but very realistic.

  • *Yawn* WWII bombs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ooze ( 307871 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @05:22AM (#10036760)
    There are still severalcitier in Germany that have to be evacuated entirely or in parts every few months because soem construction worker found some 250kg or 500kg bomb again. That's just part of life and a small note int tha traffic radio.

    now having a 1400t bomb in the middle of Berlin, that would be something. But actually we had that around 60 years ago in several German towns, sort of, so no big news either.
  • Would this work? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @07:12AM (#10036983) Journal
    Would it make sense to surround the ship with a reinforced concrete caisson that's shaped like a parabola with the ship at the focal point? Blow the ship and any blast effect goes straight up.

    Only drawback I can think of is the inevitable construction vibrations may be enough to set the bombs off. That and getting rid of the caisson after the bombs were set off.

    The idea's based on the old railroad dynamite cars. They were made with heavily reinforced floors and walls but the ceilings had just enough tin to keep the rain out. If the load blew, the blast took the path of least resistance and blew the tin roof sky high leaving the rest of the car intact.

  • Stupid article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zip In The Wire ( 701259 ) on Sunday August 22, 2004 @11:05AM (#10037622)
    The Baker Shot which was 20 kilotons only produced a "wall" of water about 60 meters high at ground zero.

    This is a really stupid, and over exaggerated article.

According to all the latest reports, there was no truth in any of the earlier reports.

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