Dangerous Stuff



or…In amongst the shells, SHELLS

Written by Stephen Burton

M9801 Nose fuse used on 105mm to 203mm  large calibre shells20mmm HEI (High Explosive Incendiary) exploding bullets. Once fired, the exploding bullet tip is armed and precusively sensitive. meaning don't mess with it let alone drop it, or it will blow a chunk of your body off2.75inch hydra rocket - The helicopter gunships favorite weapon for softening up the enemy from a safe distance

US Military Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) Safety Guide Poster download

Download US Military Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) Safety Guide Poster. pdf        1.8Mb

Main US Military UXO Web Site – For Information, Poster, study documents

unexploded submarine mortar hedgehog bomb found off Pattaya, Thailand

history of unexploded submarine mortar hedgehog bomb found off Pattaya, Thailand

photos and article courtesy of http://www.pattayaone.net/pattaya-news/23346/unexploded-torpedo-found-by-fishermen-off-the-coast-of-pattaya/


Several very serious accidents occurring recently prompted me to write this short article and release this subsequent report uxb found on local pattaya dive sites (1.25Mb) One accident resulted in a local diver being literally blown to bits, another resulted in very severe injuries requiring emergency repatriation for a young foreign tourist and a further incident blew a large offshore fishing vessel to pieces. The article is not specific to any dive site or indeed to any country, since most countries have been subject to war within the last 100 years and many have shipwrecks of warships and transport vessels carrying thousands of tons of unexploded ordinance in their territorial waters.. The focus of this first article is on the newer items that divers somehow deem’ collectable’

High Explosive large caliber shell being played with by a recreational scuba diver. Prat.

Question:- Durr… I wonder what pretty yellow markings on an olive green case mean…
(Answer= ‘high explosive’; Now put the bomb down gently on the sand ‘you twat’ and pray to God it doesn’t explode!!! )

Typical new explosives found on ‘test range’ dive sites

Many of the worlds popular dive sites consist of remote pinnacles located far out to sea away from the nearest land. It may come as a surprise to find out that the same features that attract divers and sea-life to the remote location also represent the ideal properties for a gunnery test range. Fortunately, these ranges are clearly marked on Admiralty charts as ‘dangerous areas’. Wisely, local fishing boats keep clear of them (not wanting any explosives brought up in the drag nets). This leads to a proliferation of fish life, further increasing the sites popularity with divers.

The latest range of attack helicopters and fighter aircraft pack a fearsome arsenal of weapons purposely designed to destroy reinforced targets, start fires, or to kill and maim as many people as possible in the area they’re fired at. The destructive power of modern military weapons is truly breathtaking. These are not children’s fireworks. Even small parts of them found underwater in a corroded state or appearing to be partially disintegrated, can easily kill the idiot diver and nearby innocent buddies.

Generally, most off shore gunnery ranges consist of the surface portion of a submerged pinnacle of sea-mount. I’ve notice that the most popular size for a test range site is when it approximates that of a small Naval Warship.

During target practice and mock battles, helicopters, fighter aircraft, and warships shoot large numbers of live and practice rounds at the pinnacle. Those that hit the rock usually detonate their warhead and explode into hundreds of shrapnel fragments. However, large numbers of unguided ‘standoff’ weapons miss their target and hit the sea close to the pinnacle. Many that hit the sea fail to detonate, and fall to the sea bead as ‘armed and fired’ projectiles. The represents the most dangerous condition for an unexploded piece of military ordinance.

Here’s an example of an apparently innocent bullet. Fired in there thousands at test ranges by ground attack aircraft..

M56A3/A4 20mm HEI exploding cannon round

M56A3/A4 20mm HEI

DANGER – THIS IS AN EXPLODING BULLET –  HEI= High Explosive Incendiary

 Not the sort of thing you’d want clanking together in you BCD pocket or falling off the kitchen table at home onto a tiled floor.

M242 High-Explosive Incendiary-Tracer HEI Cartridge

M242 High-Explosive Incendiary-Tracer HEI Cartridge

From experience, It appears that collision with the sea does not seam to be enough ‘shock’ to detonate most explosive shells, missiles and large caliber bullets. However, impact with the sea often causes partial disintegration of the shells into component parts. All parts of the live projectile or missile head are potentially lethal.

Here’s the actual explosive bullet head found on the sea bed. The white bit in the picture above is the shell casing and is usually jettisoned out of the aircraft at the firing location. Dozens more armed but unexploded HEI bullets were located nearby. This nearly blew the foot off a diver when one actually rolled off the kitchen table onto a nice hard tiled floor. Unclassified documents rate this explosive 20mm shell as having a 2 meter lethal blast radius to personnel. The young guy was very lucky to only loose half his foot.

M242 20mm HEI High explosive Incendiary shell. don't drop it

or also seen in the same divers lucky bag…

noce fuse for large calibra shell

A detonator off a high explosive shell. Also containing high explosive and percussively sensitive (designed to explode when something hits it on the end) This is a really nasty piece of work.

Here is an example of what tissue damage the explosion of the pretty yellow bullet pictured above could do if it detonates next to your foot

This is a footmine injury, but typical of the type of injury that would result from a 20mmHEI exploding near your foot

Other larger stuff

The Vietnam war favorite 2.75inch Hydra-rocket system. Still used today. fired by helicopter gun ships as a ‘stand-off weapon’ from a few km away to ‘soften up’ the target before the troops go in and mop up the remains.

2.75inch Hyra Rocket. Practice round

The 2 units above are practice rounds, and are approx 1 meter long.

Unfortunately, also lying nearby were High explosive live rounds live rounds of these types

the ever versatile 2.75inch hydra rocket system, and it fashion accesories - spreading the good news on batlefields since the vietnam war

You can’t imagine how destructive this stuff can be. High explosive sub munitions, Antipersonnel mines, anti-armor heads, exploding heads with 1500 hardened nails flying in every direction.

hydra rocket 19 magazine mounted on a Chinnook Helicopter

and here the Hydra 2.75inch, 19 rocket launcher on a Chinook helicopter gunship

Older WWII stuff

Any enemy shipping that came within a B24 Liberator bomber run of India (and that covers a very large area) came in for some very heavy pounding. A couple of large 500Kg /1,000pounder bombs found at a local dive site are shown below in pristine form. The body of the bomb is approx 1.5meter /6 foot long, nose and tail fused. I suggest that the barnacles covering the attractive brass nose and tail fuses should not be removed with a hammer and chisel. It’s only a suggestion though 🙂

1000poundr bomb dropped by 7th Battle Group bombers on enemy shipping in Thailand during WWII

1000 pounder being recovered by British Royal Navy Clearance divers - photo courtesy of http://rndivers.multiply.com/

Examples of UXB’s in-situ on dive sites

Blue inert shell - approx 4 inch calibre - Hin Chalam dive site, near Pattaya, Thailand

155mm shell case just a few meters below the surface at a Sail Rock. Photo from Camille Lemmens at IDC Thailand

Its definitely UXO - don't touch.155mm shell with Nose fuse missing - It seams that entry into water tears the nose fuses out - the dodgy fuses are often found nearby.


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Tel : +32 (0)9 228.61.50
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“Some decades ago, ammunition dumping, in the water, was a commonly accepted, cheap alternative to destruction.

But this results in a major ecological and safety problems. Ammunition is indeed better preserved underwater but after many years, the shells start to corrode and the explosives become unstable.

The consequences are incalculable if nothing is done. Recovery is not without danger and demands specialized personnel”


More than ninety percent of world trade is transported by ship and this makes MUSC’s marine security services vitally important to our client companies. MUSC operate in a variety of fields including anti-maritime piracy, counter terrorism, explosive ordnance survey and removal, prevention of maritime crime such as theft or sabotage.



Other dangerous stuff

A Fisherman’s Shark Attack Report, Thailand


US Navy Diver Girl - 'Could easily explode easily if carelessly dropped, or placed next to a superior specimen"

US Navy Diver Girl – ‘Could easily explode easily if carelessly dropped, or placed next to a superior specimen”