Day 4 of hunt the bomb

ROYAL Navy divers expect to find the lost Felixstowe bomb today - although it is likely it will be destroyed tomorrow.

ROYAL Navy divers expect to find the lost Felixstowe bomb today - although it is likely it will be destroyed tomorrow.

Officers have spent the morning searching the seabed using a mini computer-operated submarine called Remus which is sweeping up and down the seabed, inch by inch, taking photos of every suspicious object.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Hankey said this could take up to two-and-a-half hours and he hoped that they would find the bomb today. He said that once the submarine locates the bomb the data would then need to be analysed before divers take to the water to attempt to destroy it.

But this could only take place at certain times during the day.

“It really depends with what is happening with the tide, we can only put divers into the water on or around slack water,” he said.

Lieutenant Commander Hankey said this limits the time to about 3.17pm or about 9pm.

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He added: “Although it is not my call, I do not believe that they plan to go diving at night and the situation is safe at the moment so there is no point putting people at risk. If divers are not in the water around 3pm today then they will probably be in the water tomorrow.”

The 5ft 8in long torpedo-shaped vehicle has been driven down from Scotland especially for this task. It will be programmed with satellite co-ordinates from a tracking beacon and when it identifies anything interesting, the divers will go down and investigate to see if it is the 1,000lb German Second World War weapon.

“We have temporarily misplaced the bomb through mechanical and technical mishaps but we are making huge strides to reacquire it and a lot of work is taking place,” said Warrant officer Robin Rickard, who is overseeing the diving team.

“We are throwing everything we have at this and I am fairly confident we will recover this bomb in the near future.”

Yesterday afternoon the team tried using a dragnet chain between two small boats, working about two miles offshore in ten to 12 metres of water, pulling the chain along the hard, flat and featureless seabed.

“When the chain snags on something we will take a short dive down and check it and confirm or deny if that is the bomb,” said Warrant Officer Rickard.

He said no GPS signal device had been attached to the bomb, only the lift bags and strops, one of which broke allowing it to go free.

“GPS is not an exact science. Some of the best systems will put you within ten feet of an exact position but on the seabed with a slowly drifting object and nil visibility, ten inches would not be easy out there,” he said.

With the strong tidal streams beneath the surface, poor visibility and less than favourable weather conditions, it was not an easy task and there were only short periods when the divers could dive.

There have been several operations in the past 24 hours and using GPs and sonar but each only allowed up to 90 minutes' dive time.

“It is a little bit embarrassing but these things happen and we are at the mercy of the sea. We are not going to give up,” said Warrant Officer Rickard.

Once they find the bomb, a German SC type shell from 1942, they will attach an indicator line as a locating marker. Then, if all goes well, an explosive charge will be made up and the bomb will be exploded

Petty officer diver Dave Moore said the bomb was 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.