This week Mr. James Barton officially warned the National Marine Fisheries Service that indiscriminate seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic will potentially lead to the release of chemicals from munition dump sites. The threat to humans and dolphins is serious.
Now the stakes are raised to a nuclear concern.
Below is an NPR story from February of 2008 that recalls that a 7,000-pound nuclear bomb was still resting in the Atlantic just of the Georgia coast near Tybee Island. Now 59 years later the bomb is still there.
The NPR report says that according to the Air Force, “if the bomb is still intact, the risk associated with the spread of heavy metals is low. If it’s left undisturbed, the explosive in the bomb poses no hazard”.
Which brings us back to Mr. Barton, a retiree from the US Navy Bomb Squad and expert on sea dumped munitions. He states that the airgun blasts will disturb conventional and chemical weapons in Atlantic munition dumps—weapons that might be seriously compromised from being in the ocean for so long. This would result in the release of very dangerous chemicals to wash up on beaches and find their way to dolphin feeding grounds.
Now we add the release of uranium and plutonium to the concerns about seismic airgun blasting.
Frank Knapp Jr.
NPR February 3, 2008
For 50 Years, Nuclear Bomb Lost in Watery Grave
Lindsay Magnum, NPR Heard on Weekend Edition Sunday
On Feb. 5, 1958, a B-47 bomber dropped a 7,000-pound nuclear bomb into the waters off Tybee Island, Ga., after it collided with another Air Force jet.
Fifty years later, the bomb — which has unknown quantities of radioactive material — has never been found. And while the Air Force says the bomb, if left undisturbed, poses no threat to the area, determined bomb hunters and area residents aren’t so sure.
The bomb found its hidden resting place when the B-47 pilot, Air Force Col. Howard Richardson, dropped it into the water after an F-86 fighter jet accidentally collided with him during a training mission. The fighter jet’s pilot, Lt. Clarence Stewart, didn’t see Richardson’s plane on his radar; Stewart descended directly onto Richardson’s aircraft. The impact ripped the left wing off the F-86 and heavily damaged the fuel tanks of the B-47.
Richardson, carrying a two-man crew, was afraid the bomb would break loose from his damaged plane when he landed, so he ditched the bomb in the water before landing the plane at Hunter Air Force Base outside Savannah. Stewart ejected and eventually landed safely in a swamp.
The Navy searched for the bomb for more than two months, but never found it, and today recommends it should remain in its resting place. In a 2001 report on the search and recovery of the bomb, the Air Force said that if the bomb is still intact, the risk associated with the spread of heavy metals is low. If its left undisturbed, the explosive in the bomb poses no hazard, the report said. It went on to say that an “intact explosive would pose a serious explosion hazard to personnel and the environment if disturbed by a recovery attempt.”
While the government has officially stopped searching for the bomb, area residents — including retired Air Force pilot Derek Duke — haven’t forgotten about the deadly weapon lying quietly off their coast. In 2004, Duke detected high radiation in shallow water off the coast of Savannah. Government officials investigated, but concluded that the radiation readings were normal for the naturally occurring minerals in the area.
Liane Hansen spoke with defense correspondent Guy Raz about the history of the lost bomb, and the people who are still intrigued by the sunken weapon.
A Lost Nuke’s Paper Trail
1958 letter to Congress describing H-bomb as ‘irretrievably lost’
1966 letter to Congress describing accidents where nuclear weapons were lost and never recovered
Page 2 of 1966 letter to Congress
2001 Air Force report on 1958 B-47 accident
2005 Air Force findings on radiation in Wassaw Sound
Documents courtesy of the Douglas Keeney collections