Australian navy ship tows unexploded bomb out to sea

SYDNEY (AP) - Australian naval divers removed an unexploded 45-pound bomb on a reef off the southeast coast and towed it from a ship into deeper waters because it posed a "significant risk" to the public.
The bomb was found by a fisherman on Elizabeth Reef near Lord Howe Island, about 550 kilometers off the state of New South Wales. He photographed his discovery and reported it to the authorities.
Divers aboard HMAS Adelaide carefully removed the abandoned explosives by floating it to the surface and dragging it further into the sea, where it fell into 550 meters of water.
“This depth is really safe. It will never be washed onto the reef again, ”said John Pritchard, Senior Marine Parks Officer. "There's no deep sea or trawling. It's just a recreational fishing zone. The likelihood that this UXO (unexploded ordinance) will ever come back to the surface is negligible."
The origin of the bomb is unknown and divers have been unable to estimate its age due to its deterioration, said a spokesman for Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
Bombs of this size were already used in World War I and were sometimes dropped from airplanes on submarines. There were also bombings off the Australian east coast during World War II.
Ley said the fishermen and marine divers may have saved lives and one of Australia's most important reefs.
"The device was viewed as live by the Navy and the consequences could have been pretty scary," Ley said in a statement on Sunday. "Fortunately, the reef's valuable ecosystem is safe and, above all, future visitors."
The Elizabeth Reef is about 160 kilometers north of the World Heritage Site Lord Howe Island. Along with the nearby Middleton Reef, Pritchard said it was the southernmost coral reef platform in the world.
"125 corals (and) over 300 species of fish have been identified there," said Pritchard. "It's a pretty unique environment and, because it's so far from anywhere, relatively unspoiled."

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