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 11:50 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
updated 2:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Sat September 27, 2014
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
updated 9:54 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 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