OT: Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (Full Version)

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obvert -> OT: Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (11/6/2012 9:29:09 AM)

In research about specific ships I ran across this paper detailing worries about the many wrecks still filled with oil, explosives and other dangerous substances beneath the oceans (and rivers) across the world. I thought this map was worth sharing.


Really interesting reading, although a long paper. I haven't gotten through it all yet. Here is one bit about a ship close to me, and a list of what a liberty ship hauling ordnance might load in 44. Wow! Wouldn't want to throw your cigarette butts in that hold!

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is the United Kingdom’s equivalent to the U.S. Coast Guard. Like their American counterpart, the MCA is responsible for search and rescue, vessel safety, and coastal pollution prevention. One vessel actively managed by the MCA is the SS Richard Montgomery, a 441-foot, 7,146-gross-ton liberty ship that dragged anchor in heavy winds in the Thames Estuary in England on August 20, 1944. The ship ran aground on a sand bar and suffered a broken keel and cracked hull (see fig. 7).

The vessel was carrying the following:
• 13,064 general-purpose 250 lb. bombs
• 9,022 cases of fragmentation bombs
• 7,739 semi-armor-piercing bombs
• 1,522 cases of fuses
• 1,429 cases of phosphorous bombs
• 1,427 cases of 100 lb. demolition bombs
• 817 cases of small arms ammunition

A month-long salvage operation continued until the vessel split in two, filling the holds with seawater. One thousand four hundred tons of explosives remain on board in the forward hull. Due to loose blasting caps in the ammo hold and unstable ammunition, no further effort was made to salvage the vessel. Sixty-two years later, the vessel is still considered to be highly unstable. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency of the United Kingdom maintains a no-entry exclusion zone around the wreck using radar, security boat patrols, and video surveillance to keep curious vessels away (Maritime and Coastguard Agency 2005).


obvert -> RE: OT-Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (11/6/2012 9:47:49 AM)

Apparently the SS Richard Montgomery is a big problem. A New Scientist article quoted below highlights the concerns.

These two quotes put it in perspective. Hard to imagine this kind of load was traversing all of the world's oceans at great hazard during the conflict.

“It would be the world's biggest non-nuclear explosion apart from volcanoes."

”Removing the explosives would mean evacuating 40,000 people for six months. The report's favoured solution is to build an 1800-metre earthwork around the wreck to deaden the blast of the explosion."

There are apparently police boat patrols daily to ward off any unwanted visitors to the wreck.

The Doomsday Wreck

New Scientist 21st August 2004

Mick Hamer Page 38 (Extract)

"The bombs themselves have watertight cases and most experts agree that the TNT they contain
is probably in first-class condition.

The fuses however, fall well short of this state, a fact that the government has known since 1967.
The fuses contain lead azide, a chemical designed to explode on impact and detonate the main
charge of TNT. Although the bombs are watertight, the fuses are not. This isn't a problem if
seawater gets in: it will wash out the lead azide. But there is a nightmare scenario- and it only has
to apply to one fused bomb.(*)
If water vapour, and not water, gets into the fuse it will react with the lead azide to form hydrazoic
acid. This in turn will attack the detonating cap, which is 95 per cent copper, to form copper
azide, which is highly sensitive and will explode at the slightest knock. It is so sensitive that it
cannot be used commercially. One fuse detonating one fragmentation bomb could easily set off
the rest of the cargo."

(*) The 2600 Fragmentation bombs (mostly if not all) have fuses in them.



These comprise a cluster of six 20lb TNT-filled fragmentation bombs type M41 assembled and packed on the cluster in the fuzed condition. They are the most hazardous items in the cargo of the "SS Richard Montgomery". Each cluster was packed in a metal-lined wooden box of exterior dimensions 134 X 27 X 32 (cm). The fuze employed is the type AN-M110A1


IN THE Thames estuary, 60 kilometres from central London, lies the 60-year-old wreck of the American liberty ship Richard Montgomery. It still carries 1400 tonnes of TNT, and according to a report commissioned by the UK government, an explosion is "increasingly probable with the passing of time". Which makes it odd that it has taken four years to publish the report, which will appear this week.

New Scientist revealed last year that the then secret report warned of the dangers posed by the wreck (21 August 2004, p 36). The ship is disintegrating and is likely to start collapsing in 10 to 20 years' time. "Experience from other similar wrecks indicates that the explosion of one munition is likely to result in a mass explosion," the report says. It would be the world's biggest non-nuclear explosion apart from volcanoes, and would cause £1 billion of damage and widespread injuries to the public.

(Extract) From issue 2483 of New Scientist magazine, 22 January 2005, page 4

quoted from this website;

LargeSlowTarget -> RE: OT-Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (11/6/2012 10:43:08 AM)

Thx for sharing.

From the first link you have quoted: "Only five miles from shore in Hawaii, 16,000 mustard-gas-filled 100-pound bombs were unloaded into deep water in 1944. Immediately following World War II, four railroad cars containing mustard gas bombs and mines were dumped off the coast of South Carolina. A few months later, up to 23 barges with German-produced nerve gas bombs were dumped in the same location. Each barge carried up to 350 tons of bombs. While the scuttling of damaged vessels and equipment immediately following World War II is well documented, the dumping of chemical weapons is not. The army claims 26 dump sites but only one is listed on a nautical chart (Bull 2005)."

In Europe, dozens of ships - ranging from small trawlers and E-Boats to Liberty ships and ocean liners - were loaded with chemical weapons (e.g. German stockpiles of mustard gas, phosgene, chlorine, Tabun, Sarin and Soman, but also British stockpiles) and scuttled in the North Sea, the Skagerrak, the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic.


MAurelius -> RE: OT-Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (11/6/2012 10:51:12 AM)

so it is proven after all - not a lot of fighting in the Antarctic :D

John 3rd -> RE: OT-Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (11/6/2012 4:05:19 PM)

Wow. That is some scary info. It isn't something you'd really think about 70 years later...

obvert -> RE: OT-Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (11/8/2012 8:46:28 AM)


ORIGINAL: John 3rd

Wow. That is some scary info. It isn't something you'd really think about 70 years later...

Especially considering I was just in the Thames estuary near here, within the projected blast area of an explosion, completely unaware that this ship and it's cargo are there. Proximity often makes us look at certain issues differently! [:)]

jmalter -> RE: OT-Worldwide WWII wrecks map and info (11/8/2012 3:58:00 PM)

i thought that bombs weren't fused until they were loaded on the plane 'for delivery'. shipping fused bombs sounds a like a great way to cause a major oopsie.

wrt mustard gas, a German air-raid on Bari caused a major prob when the SS John Harvey (w/ 2,000 mustard gas bombs in her cargo) was bliterated. the cargo was secret, & all her crew had perished, so no-one knew that the oil-covered waters (and survivors & rescue personnel & hospital staff) were contaminated w/ the mustard agent.

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