Port St Mary Lifeboat Station - Callouts: 12th March 2002.
Weather: Wind NNE force 3
Port St Mary lifeboat was launched to go to the aid of a Northern Irish fishing boat which had picked up an unexploded mine in its nets.
The 22 metre long beam trawler from Newry, NI., was fishing for dublin bay prawns (nephrops) 14 miles west of the Chickens Rock Light.
The lifeboat was launched at 8:10 pm and escorted the Rebecca Elizabeth, N 928, from just west of the Chickens Rock towards the coast to find an area of water 18 metres deep, with a sandy sea bed, so the mine could be lowered to the bottom and marked for safe disposal at a later date.
This was carried out without incident, and the mine was left on the Warts Bank, 3 miles south west of Port St Mary at a position 54deg 02.34 mins North, 004 deg 46.37 mins West marked by a red plastic oil drum. Liverpool Coastguard is asking all shipping to remain 1 nautical mile clear of this position until the mine is disposed off.
It is expected that it will be disposed of controlled explosion by bomb disposal experts later in the week.
The Lifeboat returned home at 9:45 pm, the Rebecca Elizabeth continued on towards fishing grounds off Whitehaven, Cumbria.
The following day, 13 th March , a four man bomb disposal squad arrived from Faslane naval base. The weather was too fresh for the team to use their own inflatable support boat and it was arranged with for them to take a trip on Port St Mary lifeboat out to the spot on the Warts bank to ensure that the mine was still had its surface marker. It did and was still in the noted position. Nothing more could be done and the lifeboat returned to station.
On Saturday 16th the lifeboat was deployed to act as a guard vessel to prevent any vessels straying too close to where navy divers were working on the mine.
At 10:15 UTC "Gough Ritchie II" stoodby fisheries protection vessel "Barrule" which was carrying a bomb disposal squad to deal with the mine. Divers went down to the mine at the Warts and identified it as a World War II anti shipping contact mine with approximately 400 to 500 lbs of explosive contained within it. It appeared intact and in reasonable condition and therefore posed a real hazard. A line was attached to it, it was lifted off the sea bed and towed very slowly towards west end of Bay Stacka where it was lowered back to the sea bed in about twenty metres of water. It was brought inshore due to the strong tides that run over the Warts bank.
The mine was hauled to the surface to be identified
Heading towards Bay Stacka - bomb disposal squad is positioned over where the mine was lowered back to the sea bed
The divers then re-dived on the mine and attached explosive demolition charges. At 15:00 UTC both vessels dropped back half a mile from the site and on lookers above the Chasms were kept back from the cliff edgeover looking the bay by Coastguard members. A controlled explosion occurred at 15:20 UTC. The resulted in a large deep bang which just broke the sea surface and afterwards generated a large black 'doughnut' of sediment. The leader of the bomb squad confirmed that the mine had been completely destroyed after which the lifeboat was released from safety duty.
Fisheries protection vessel Barrule which acted as support vessel to the bomb disposal squad divers.
Bomb disposal squad come over in order that dive bottles could be recharged ashore prior to a final dive to contect fuses to demolition charges
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Edited 12-Mar -02