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What happens to the ammunition in sunken ships?

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  • Member since
    July 2008
  • From: Vancouver, the "wet coast"
What happens to the ammunition in sunken ships?
Posted by castelnuovo on Monday, May 31, 2021 3:09 PM

I was watching some videos about Midway and Iron Bottom sound. Many ships went down loaded with ammunition. What happens to it? Does it just rot away in the salty water or does it remain dangerous for decades like land mines?

  • Member since
    August 2014
  • From: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Posted by goldhammer on Monday, May 31, 2021 3:21 PM

Can remain and get more dangerous over the years.

 

There is a freighter in England that has an exclusion zone around her for that reason.  Really surprised that some wrecks in Truk lagoon are still allowed to be dived on.

Thankfully, most wrecks are in deep enough water to be out of our reach of probing.  As well as being classified as war graves to be left alone out of respect.

  • Member since
    July 2014
Posted by modelcrazy on Monday, May 31, 2021 3:21 PM

Both. There's a Liberty Ship outside a port in England, I don't recall which port, but it sank fully loaded with ammunition after hitting a bar. They have it cordoned off in case she blows. After several more years it my deteriorate enough to not be a hazard, but it also may deteriorate enough to be a disaster. No one really knows.

I don't know if Iron Bottom Sound is listed as a hazard to navigation or not but it probably is, or should be.

Steve

Building a kit from your stash is like cutting a head off a Hydra, two more take it's place.

 

 

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  • Member since
    July 2011
  • From: Armpit of NY
Posted by MJames70 on Monday, May 31, 2021 3:33 PM

The SS Richard Montgomery is the ship that ran aground in the Thames in 1944, and sank. There are over 1000 tons of explosives still believed to be aboard, but the explosion danger is considered remote. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Richard_Montgomery

 

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Monday, May 31, 2021 3:59 PM

Hi;

 Based on my training, and ye,s I have gone down in Iron Bottom sound, they will be a danger till the Sea claims the explosives within the cases. Plus the shells which will take longer. A rusty shelf collapsing could set something off just llike a Land Mine-It's best left alone. After I saw the munitions I never dove there again.

 The one in England is far more dangerous in that she doesn't sit as deep as some in the Sound. Not deep enough to be safe anyway.

  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Monday, May 31, 2021 5:07 PM

Most smokeless powder (firearms propellant) and miliatry high explosives (ordnance filling) are least stable at warmer temps (about 30-40ºC) for long periods.

Bottom of the sea is not warm, but intorduces the higher pressures of the water column.  The bottom of the sea, barring areas with currents tends to be anerobic, and without oxygen, things don't oxidize as rapidly as if just washed over on a beach.

Ammunition is typically sealed with lacquer at the case mouth and the primer pocket.  Those seals are generally not proof to sea-bottom pressures.

Which is another thing.  Average ocean depth is around 3600-3700m (12K feet); "Sport" diving depth maximum is around 40m, and "technical" diving is to 60m or so (140 ft)

20M is around 3 Bar (43psi); 60m is 7 Bar (102psi); 3600m comes in at 363 Bar (5263 psi--or 2.5 tons per square inch).

Where the question mark enters is for compartments that still hold air.  In those, the explosives might deteriorate in chemically unstable ways that are best left undisturbed.

There are also considerations for where leaking explosives contents cahn change the local ocean chemsitry, and possibly not for the better.

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Towson MD
Posted by gregbale on Monday, May 31, 2021 5:15 PM

Another good article here:

https://observer.com/2017/06/wwii-ss-richard-montgomery-disaster-waiting-to-happen-documentary/

Greg

George Lewis:

"Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer."
 
  • Member since
    July 2004
  • From: Sonora Desert
Posted by stikpusher on Monday, May 31, 2021 7:06 PM

Most of the wrecks in Iron Bottom Sound, and all of the wrecks at Midway are at depths where any explosives remaining on board should not present any hazard to a surface vessel. The few sunk in the shallow waters off of Guadalcanal or Tulagi do present some hazards from both remaining ordnance and fuel on board.

Here is a link to a 1999 study of the vessels in Iron Bottom sound.

http://prdrse4all.spc.int/system/files/TR0280.pdf

 

 

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    August 2019
  • From: Central Oregon
Posted by HooYah Deep Sea on Monday, May 31, 2021 7:38 PM

All in all, its a good news - bad news kind of thing. The good news is that the ordnance is very stable and pressure at depth is not a detonation factor. Shock is a problem but at the rate of deterioration down there, shock is not an issue either, even with structural collapse.

The problem with the ammo is if people mess with it. Stupid humans are the cause of lots of problems. If the stuff is left alone, it will deteriorate, albeit slowly, and once water gets inside the containers / shell cases, all is good.

You can dive in places like truk (or chuk, or what ever they are calling it now), because they have established laws about messing with the wrecks. They are extremely serious about "look but don't touch and no souvenirs", Period, end of story.

Fuel, (the bad news potentially) on the other hand, especially in the larger ships, could be more of an issue. If a fuel bunker is breached, the fuel will rise in the water column and finally get to the surface. hopefully ocean currents will disperse it sufficiently so it does not become a slick.

By the way; to calculate pressure at depth, multiply depth (in feet) times .445 and you will have the pressure in PSIG. To get PSIA, add another 14.5.

 

           "IF IT WERE EASY, EVERYBODY WOULD HAVE ONE"

 

"Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, okay?"

  • Member since
    August 2014
  • From: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Posted by goldhammer on Monday, May 31, 2021 9:03 PM

I wonder if bunker fuel, say from the Yorktown at 3 miles down would be cold enough and under enough pressue to just stay in the bottom.

  • Member since
    August 2019
  • From: Central Oregon
Posted by HooYah Deep Sea on Monday, May 31, 2021 9:34 PM

The fuel they used at that time, Bunker C, despite being heavier than that used today, is still lighter than water. The pressure at depth doesn't even come into the equation. The temperature does, but just slows things down. 

What happens is that the oil slowly rises in the tanks and then to the tank vents / overflows. Water displaces it as it rises. It moves up, compartment by compartment until it reaches free water. Then it starts the rise toward the surface. As it encounters warmer waters, it starts to break up from its original gelatinous goo, to something resembling really thick crude. something akin to molasses. And like molasses, as it rises into warmer waters and gains warmth, it thins out, some .  .  . And in that long climb, as it warms, and thins, it breaks up. So, hopefully, by the time it reaches the surface, it has broken up enough to be only small globules, and fairly unobtrusive to the world.

"Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, okay?"

  • Member since
    October 2004
  • From: Orlando, Florida
Posted by ikar01 on Monday, May 31, 2021 9:53 PM

Lot of sunken ships at Okinawa.  

On top of that, the amount of expllosives on land is amazing and they may never be able to get rid of it all..

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Monday, May 31, 2021 10:16 PM

Ships don't have to sink to have munitions end up on the ocean floor.

I served as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman at the Navy hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, 1963-1965. Part way through my tour of duty there, I was ordered to accompany the crew of a Navy barge that was going to be dumping old ammunition into Tokyo Bay.

We sailed out to the middle of the bay and the sailors started dumping hundreds of large calibre artillery shells and smallish bombs overboard, while I watched and waited for an accident to occur. Of course, if one of those shells or bombs had detonated, I probably wouldn't be writing this.

I suspect that all of those shells and bombs are still there. Some have no doubt rusted and released whatever environmentally godawful chemicals they contained, and others, potential time bombs each, are just sitting there. 

That wasn't the only case of "wanton" pollution that I witnessed during my four+ years of enlistment. After I was transferred to the Marine Corps, my battalion embarked on an amphibious attack transport, U.S.S. Magoffin, sailing rom Long Beach, California to Okinawa for additional training before embarking for South Vietnam. Every day of our week-long voyage, sailors would appear at the ship's fantail with several large plastic bags of garbage and threw them overboard. Some floated and disappeared in the distance, while others sank.

Bob 

 

On the bench: 1/500 Revell S.S. Hope, being built as the hospital ship U.S.S. Repose; Academy 1/72 F-86F Sabre, and a diorama to illustrate the crash of a Beech T-34B Mentor which I survived in 1962 (I'm using Minicraft's 1/48 model of the Mentor). 

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • From: Central Florida
Posted by plasticjunkie on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 8:09 AM

It’s incredidible that after so many years those explosives are still deadly both under water and on land. I recently saw a video of a German WWII bomb found in England in a residential hood that had to be detonated. Also read of people mostly farmers in France finding bombs and grenades in their crop fields.

 GIFMaker.org_jy_Ayj_O

 

 

Too many models to build, not enough time in a lifetime!!

  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
Posted by Bish on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 8:33 AM

I didn't kbnow about that ship in the Thames Estuary. We went on holiday to the Isle of Sheppey a few years ago as well.

Every year there are a couple of news stories about un-exploded WW2 bombs or mines being found, and ye, most of them are in built up areas as thats where the Germans dropped a lot of them.PJ, i think you are reffering to the one that was found in Exeter earlier this year, a 1,000KG device. looks like the UK goverment are going to have to pay out for the damage caused to local properties when it was detonated. Maybe they should send the bill to Berlin Big Smile.

But oddly, i don't think they have as much of a problem with WW2 bombs in Europe. And i believe this is down to better Allied recon during the war. After each raid we sent over aircraft to photograph the damage and from these they could see where there might be an un-exploded bomb by a gap in the craters. So after the war this info was used to remove many of them when German cities were being re-built. But the Germans were not able to provide the same level of info for their UXO's largely because their recon aircraft could penetrate UK airspace to the same level as ours could.

Watched a documentery a year or so ago and there is a large compound, can't recall if its northern France or Belgium, where they deal with huge amounts of unexploded ordanance ffrom the battle fields of WW1. farmers are constantly pulling stuff up from there.

I am a Norfolk man and i glory in being so

 

On the bench: Hasegawa 1/72nd Typhoon FGR.4/Airfix 1/72nd Victor K.2

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Towson MD
Posted by gregbale on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 9:03 AM

Bish

Watched a documentery a year or so ago and there is a large compound, can't recall if its northern France or Belgium, where they deal with huge amounts of unexploded ordanance ffrom the battle fields of WW1. farmers are constantly pulling stuff up from there.

I had an uncle with the US occupation forces after WW2 who was detailed to aid the French in clearing unexploded ordnance from civilian areas. In his particular area (alas, I can't recall the exact location), he said they found as much stuff left over from the Great War as from the more recent conflict...which is actually why he was seconded. He was a specialist in the types of 1st WW gas shells that were a particular hazard compared to 'simple' explosives.

Greg

George Lewis:

"Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer."
 
  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 9:26 AM

Hi; I hope you don't mind this rather long comment on the subject?

 Bunker Fuel at the Pressures and Temperatures down there poses No problem. When the ship is gone the oil will get covered by sand and silt and be discovered a thousand years from now as a rare find of Fossil Fuel!

 The Oil we carried on The Shell Orion had to be kept warm or it would turn into a very viscous sludge or worse. That's why when a tanker wrecks it's such a mess. If we let it thicken we'd have to wait probably weeks to unload.  

They still find Globs of the Stuff in Prince William Sound. BUT, according to the Native Americans there, the Globs have been brought up since BEFORE the White Man EVER showed up. It's a Natural Oil Seep!

     We had a flying Spotter when we worked on The "Cape Mohican Oil Spill" in S.F.Bay.What he didn't understand, LORI Ladder brushes could not Pick Up or Skim Diesel Fuel! We could pick up the thicker stuff cause that's what the gear was for.

 He had Us chasing Rainbows (For Real) Caused by Diesel Fuel which Dissipates in a short time but when it is spilled in water it creates a thin film that Aerosolizes quickly then is gone with the Breeze. Oh! That doesn't mean it's safe. No Pollutant is safe!

 Somebody asked once ," Why do you guys wear Moonsuits when you go after that stuff"? Well it is a good question. All the heavier and some of the lighter product give off gasses after being processed in a refinery. I guess its because of what is mixed in to create the specific product. Some of that stuff not only kills by coating wildlife but, also by emitting gasses once exposed in the environment, that can kill too.

      That's why you'll see a skimmer Company working in a close in area also has a crewmember sticking out their arm, At the bow of a small LCVP type boat, whose hand is holding a Dreager Measuring device as they nose into the grasses and trees along the shore. It measures the amount of Volatile and Non - Volitile organic compounds in the air in and around, the spill area near the Water's surface up to six to ten foot above the water. No, It doesn't usually go higher because it consists of heavier molecules. But Wind and Breeze will dissipate it over a short time sometimes. I have heard of "Pools" of gas formed when there is a small clearing surrounded by taller plants!

  • Member since
    October 2004
  • From: Orlando, Florida
Posted by ikar01 on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 9:44 AM

Toyoko Bay?  Isn't that where Disney built a theme park?

I know of a area in Okinawa where they found a WWII ammo dump that had collapsed during a earth wuake.  The first thing they accidently uncovered were two cannons of some type that were srill loaded.  Then they started to find satcks of bombs that would have been loaded onto Japanese aircraft.  After many days of hauling out these bombs to the current ammo dump to be destroyed they discovered that it was much larger than they thought and traced them into base housing, where they remain many feet below.  I think they figured it was safer to just let sleeping dogs of war lie.

  • Member since
    July 2016
  • From: Malvern, PA
Posted by WillysMB on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 11:13 AM

Then there was the story of a Grand Slam or Tall Boy bomb that stood as a gate guardian at a UK airbase for many years. Everybody "knew" it had been emptied of its contents right after the war, only it wasn't...

  • Member since
    August 2014
  • From: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Posted by goldhammer on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 11:36 AM

No one has any idea of how many of the Japanese balloon bombs are still waiting in the Pacific northwest, leftovers from the war.  Most probably never made landfall, but a couple have turned up, one with fatal results.

  • Member since
    July 2004
  • From: Sonora Desert
Posted by stikpusher on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 1:39 PM

Yeah, the military loves to bury unwanted stuff on land or dump it at sea. When I was stationed at Ft Polk in the 80's, it was decided to refurbish a shooting range for off duty on post recreational use. During the process, the construction crew uncovered a buried cache of mustard gas at the site. I don't recall what form of container or ordnance the gas was buried in, but that part of post was closed down for awhile as the EOD and NBC guys cleaned up that find.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • From: Central Florida
Posted by plasticjunkie on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 1:43 PM

goldhammer

No one has any idea of how many of the Japanese balloon bombs are still waiting in the Pacific northwest, leftovers from the war.  Most probably never made landfall, but a couple have turned up, one with fatal results.

 

I read somewhere only a couple made it over to the US carried by high altitude winds. Hopefully that is the case but I'm sure a bunch made it over. Who knows if DBCooper landed on one LOL. I read that a family out on an outing back in the early 40s came up on one killing I think a child.

 GIFMaker.org_jy_Ayj_O

 

 

Too many models to build, not enough time in a lifetime!!

  • Member since
    August 2014
  • From: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Posted by goldhammer on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 2:11 PM

Was just outside Bly, Oregon in mid '45.  5 kids and a pregnant lady lost their lives.  Memorial built in '50, her husband disappeared in Vietnam in '62 without a trace.

Can search Bly balloon bomb if interested.

  • Member since
    August 2019
  • From: Central Oregon
Posted by HooYah Deep Sea on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 6:52 PM

Bly, Oregon, is not an area with much luck apparently. It is also the place where bad guys were trying to set up a terrorist training camp back in 1999. Not a spot I would invest in, but that's just my personal opinion .  .  .

"Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, okay?"

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • From: Central Florida
Posted by plasticjunkie on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 9:25 PM

goldhammer

Was just outside Bly, Oregon in mid '45.  5 kids and a pregnant lady lost their lives.  Memorial built in '50, her husband disappeared in Vietnam in '62 without a trace.

Can search Bly balloon bomb if interested.

 

Thanks for the link. I wonder how many bare still out there in the wilderness.

 GIFMaker.org_jy_Ayj_O

 

 

Too many models to build, not enough time in a lifetime!!

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