Artifacts from the Big One - Page 2




 
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March 29th, 2017  
George
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by I3BrigPvSk
Is it allowed to dive on wrecks around the GB? I think the Norse don't allow scuba divers around their wrecks when they contain munitions
There are rules about wrecks belonging to the Royal Navy being they are still govt. property & War Graves.
March 29th, 2017  
BritinAfrica
 
 
I'm not a diver so I cannot really answer that.

Of the coast of Sheerness in Kent there is a wreck called the SS Richard Montgomery,

SS Richard Montgomery was an American Liberty ship built during World War II, one of the 2,710 used to carry cargo during the war. The ship was wrecked off the Nore sandbank in the Thames Estuary, near Sheerness, England in 1944 with around 1,400 tonnes (1,500 short tons) of explosives on board,[1] which continues to be a hazard to the area.

In August 1944, on what was to be her final voyage, the ship left Hog Island, Philadelphia, where she had been loaded with 6,127 tons of munitions.

She travelled from the Delaware River to the Thames Estuary, then anchored while awaiting the formation of a convoy to travel to Cherbourg, France, which had come under Allied control on 27 July 1944 during the Battle of Normandy.

When Richard Montgomery arrived off Southend, she came under the authority of the Thames naval control at HMS Leigh located at the end of Southend Pier. The harbour master, responsible for all shipping movements in the estuary, ordered the ship to a berth off the north edge of Sheerness middle sands, an area designated as the Great Nore Anchorage.

On 20 August 1944, she dragged anchor and ran aground on a sandbank around 250 metres from the Medway Approach Channel,[ in a depth of 24 feet (7.3 m) of water. The general dry cargo liberty ship had an average draught of 28 ft (8.5 m); however, Richard Montgomery was trimmed to a draught of 31 ft (9.4 m). As the tide went down, the ship broke her back on sand banks near the Isle of Sheppey about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from Sheerness and 5 miles (8 km) from Southend.

A Rochester-based stevedore company was given the job of removing the cargo, which began on 23 August 1944, using the ship's own cargo handling equipment. By the next day, the ship's hull had cracked open, causing several cargo holds at the bow end to flood. The salvage operation continued until 25 September, when the ship was finally abandoned before all the cargo had been recovered. Subsequently, the ship broke into two separate parts, roughly at the midsection.

During the enquiry following the shipwreck it was revealed that several ships moored nearby had noticed Richard Montgomery drifting towards the sandbank. They had attempted to signal an alert by sounding their sirens without avail, since throughout this Captain Wilkie of Richard Montgomery was asleep. The ship's chief officer was unable to explain why he had not alerted the captain. A Board of Inquiry concluded that the anchorage the harbour master assigned had placed the ship in jeopardy, and returned Richard Montgomery's captain to full duty within a week.

According to a 2008 survey, the wreck is at a depth of 15 m (49 ft), on average, and leaning to starboard. At all states of the tide, her three masts are visible above the water.[7]

Because of the presence of the large quantity of unexploded ordnance, the ship is monitored by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and is clearly marked on the relevant Admiralty Charts. In 1973 she became the first wreck designated as dangerous under section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. There is an exclusion zone around her monitored visually and by radar. The exclusion zone around the wreck is defined by the following co-ordinates: (When I was a boy we use to take sight seeing trips around the wreck)

According to a survey conducted in 2000 by the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency,[1] the wreck still held munitions containing approximately 1,400 tonnes (1,500 short tons) of TNT high explosive. These comprise the following items of ordnance:

286 2,000 lb (910 kg) high explosive "Blockbuster" bombs[9]
4,439 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs of various types
1,925 500 lb (230 kg) bombs
2,815 fragmentation bombs and bomb clusters
Various explosive booster charges
Various smoke bombs, including white phosphorus bombs
Various pyrotechnic signals

An investigation by New Scientist magazine concluded in 2004, based partly on government documents released in 2004, that the cargo was still deadly, and could be detonated by a collision, an attack, or even shifting of the cargo in the tide. The bad condition of the bombs is such that they could explode spontaneously. Documents declassified shortly before revealed that the wreck was not dealt with immediately after it happened, or in the intervening 60 years, due to the expense.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency nevertheless believe that the risk of a major explosion is remote. The UK government's Receiver of Wreck commissioned a risk assessment in 1999, but this risk assessment has not been published. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency convened with local and port authorities to discuss the report in 2001 and concluded that "doing nothing was not an option for much longer".
 


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