The Royal Australian Navy reported that its clearance divers have successfully disposed of a suspect object in Betio Lagoon off South Tarawa, in the Republic of Kiribati. Australian Defense previously reported the suspicious item may be a sea mine from World War II.
A team of Australian Defense Force personnel was sent to the Pacific island nation following the discovery of the suspect object beneath a sunken vessel that was being salvaged by commercial operators.
Six Royal Australian Navy clearance divers and a support team flew to the island nation last week on a Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft following a request for assistance from the Kiribati Government.
Clearance Diving Team Leader, Chief Petty Officer Shaun Elliott, said murky waters and the substantial sea-growth on the object hindered positive identification.
“The best thing we could do was to dispose of the object,” Chief Petty Officer Elliott said.
“Tarawa was the site of an intense World War II battle where thousands of military personnel were killed or wounded.
“So the chance of finding unexploded ordnance is a very real possibility.
“There is no sense in leaving any doubt within the community, so we safely destroyed the object with a small explosive charge.
“This way the object can never cause any harm or be misidentified by people in the future.”
The disposal activity was conducted as part of Operation RENDER SAFE – the ADF’s enduring commitment to the removal of explosive remnants of war which continue to pose a potential danger to communities across the Pacific.