U.S. Accidentally Drops 2,000 lbs. of Bombs on the Great Barrier Reef

Whoops. But they didn't explode.

National Journal

In a joint military exercise with Australia last week, the U.S. Navy dropped four unarmed bombs on the Great Barrier Reef (that thing that's endangered and can be seen from space). None exploded.

No, coral, despite it's propensity to leave some nasty scratches on human flesh, is not part of any new Axis of Evil or conspiring with al-Qaida. The bombs were dropped in an "emergency jettison," and the Navy took precautions to minimize the damage to the World Heritage marine park.

"The selected emergency jettison area was in a deep channel away from the reef to minimize the possibility of reef damage," reads a statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet. "It is approximately 50 to 60 meters deep and does not pose a hazard to shipping or navigation."

According to USA Today, the fighters were on a practice mission to the Townshend Island bombing range, but they couldn't release the payload because of the presence of civilian boats. Underfueled, the jets couldn't land with the bombs on board, so they had to ditch them. A spokesman for the Navy assured multiple news outlets that there is minimal environmental impact, and the Navy has said that it will consider a salvage operation.

Still, environmental groups are not happy. The reef is a protected marine park, after all. From Australia's Sky News:

Australian senator Larissa Waters, Greens party spokeswoman on the Great Barrier Reef, described the dumping of bombs as outrageous and said it should not be allowed.

She said: "Have we gone completely mad? Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?"

Graeme Dunstan, who is among the environmentalists and antiwar activists protesting against the joint exercise, claimed the US military could no longer be trusted to protect the environment.

"How can they protect the environment and bomb the reef at the same time? Get real."

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