Skip to main content

U.S. military jettisons bombs near Australia's Great Barrier Reef

From Ben Brumfield and Barbara Starr, CNN
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Mon July 22, 2013
The Great Barrier Reef is composed of more than 3,000 individual reefs interspersed with more than 600 islands.
The Great Barrier Reef is composed of more than 3,000 individual reefs interspersed with more than 600 islands.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Official: The Navy is looking at how it can get the bombs out
  • U.S. aircraft dropped four unarmed bombs not far from the Great Barrier Reef
  • Navy: The planes were running out of fuel and could not land with such cargo
  • Report: An Australian lawmaker calls the action "outrageous"

(CNN) -- Two U.S. military aircraft jettisoned four bombs near the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast last week, the U.S. Navy says.

Now, the Navy is looking at how it can get the bombs out, a U.S. Navy official who declined to be identified told CNN.

The two Marine planes abandoned the bombs Tuesday in the national park containing the natural wonder because they were running out of fuel and could not land with the amount of ordnance on board, the Navy said. The two Marine aircraft were launched from a Navy ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard.

Two of the projectiles were explosive bombs that were disarmed before they were dropped. They did not explode, the Navy said. The other two were inert, or non-explosive bombs, the Navy said.

Australian reef threatened

"The jettison box was selected in a deep channel away from the reef to minimize the possibility of reef damage. However the inert and unexploded ordnance is inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area," the Navy official said. "The Navy knows full well how environmentally sensitive the Great Barrier Reef is, and will do everything to make this right."

The pilots chose an area away from the reefs, which contain 400 types of coral. The area was also deep enough to prevent passing ships from running into the bombs, the Navy said.

The reef is home to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 kinds of mollusks, according to the United Nations' World Heritage Convention.

It is also a habitat for animals threatened by extinction and is protected as a World Heritage Site.

U.S. minesweeper lifted from reef

Reports of the incident drew swift condemnation from one Australian lawmaker, who told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the situation was "outrageous."

"I think it's outrageous that we're letting the U.S. military drop bombs on the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef," said Greens Sen. Larissa Waters, according to an article on the Australian network's website. "I mean have we gone completely mad? Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?"

20 of the world's most beautiful World Heritage Sites

Great Barrier Reef found to have thriving deep water coral

CNN's Zarifmo Aslamshoyeva and Larry Register contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
updated 8:01 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
updated 1:00 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi, leaders of the most populous nations face similar challenges. Can they learn from each other?
updated 6:36 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
The U.S. is not returning combat troops to Iraq, President Barack Obama insists.
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN that no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him.
updated 11:08 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mulatu Astatke is the founding father of ethio-jazz: a fusion of Ethiopian music with western jazz.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
updated 1:03 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
updated 5:27 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Psychedelic drugs are being researched as a potential treatment for conditions ranging from anxiety to tobacco and alcohol addiction.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT