Bomb search effort doubled

ROYAL Navy experts were confident today they would find the Felixstowe bomb after increasing their operations off the resort's coast.The ten-man bomb disposal team believes it will find the 1,000lb weapon by nightfall using the very latest high-tech equipment.

Richard Cornwell

ROYAL Navy experts were confident today they would find the Felixstowe bomb after increasing their operations off the resort's coast.

The ten-man bomb disposal team believes it will find the 1,000lb weapon by nightfall using the very latest high-tech equipment.

This morning divers were working with a remote-controlled underwater Blueray device which scans the seabed and sends video footage to officers in the boat above.

This afternoon another device - a £250,000 unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) called Remus - was due to be sent out to carry out an even larger sweep of the area.

Warrant officer Robin Rickard, who is overseeing the diving team, said Remus arrived at 11.30pm last night and officers had been programming its computer with the co-ordinates it will cover.

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Initially the team were searching a 50 metre zone from the German Second World War bomb's last-known position but Remus will cover a grid 800m by 400m, going up and down grid lines, able to view 30 metres of seabed at a time and see right through the silt and mud.

The operation should take about an hour and 50 minutes.

Remus will take photos of every object it finds and store these on its computer hard drive.

Officers will then spend time late this afternoon downloading all the information and sifting through it - hoping to see the bomb on the seabed.

“Our next task will be to go back to the exact GPS position which the UUV gives us, gets hands on and mark the bomb so that we know where it is,” said Warrant Officer Rickard.

“We will then assess the situation again and divers will use the best tidal window to set the charges on it and explode it.”

He was confident Remus would probably find the bomb on its first sweep of the area.

“If it doesn't then we will lay another grid mosaic on top of what we have and search the next area. The seabed here is hard, flat and featureless and perfect for Remus and the bomb itself has a strop on it with a metal buckle so it cannot roll easily and will not have gone far,” he said.

“We have calculated the tidal streams and drift and other environmental conditions, and believe the bomb is in the area we are searching. If we find it first time, fantastic - if not, we try again.

“It has been frustrating and time-consuming, and sometimes that is the way these things happen, but we have doubled our efforts and are confident of success.”

Unless the bomb is found early in the day by the remote-operated vehicle, rather than Remus, it is unlikely it will be detonated today.

Navy officials say the bomb has been “temporarily misplaced through mechanical and technical mishaps” and the strong tidal streams beneath the surface, poor visibility and less than favourable weather conditions, and dive times of only 90 minutes three times a day, have hampered the recovery.

The German SC type bomb is about two miles offshore in ten to 12 metres of water.

It is mostly TNT dynamite but mixed with about 30pc aluminium powder to make it particularly fierce.

When it goes off it should shoot a plume of water 150 to 200 ft into the air and noise should be heard across the town.

It washed up on Felixstowe beach at 6am on Monday morning and forced the evacuation of 1,200 people from the resort's West End area, with many forced to spend a night a friends and relatives or Brackenbury Sports Centre, until it could be moved out to sea ready to be exploded.