Science Questions

Is there a safe way to explore or recover the SS Richard Montgomery?

Sun, 4th Dec 2011

Part of the show Underwater Archaeology and Underwater Welding


Ben asked:

“Is there a safe way to explore or recover the SS Richard Montgomery wrecked in the Thames estuary where 1400 tonnes of explosives on board? What do you about that situation?”


We posed this question to Dave Parham at the University of Bornemouth...

Dave -  Again, the coast of the UK are all covered in lots of unexploded ornaments from both world wars and my personal is to avoid it.  We’re doing encounter it occasionally and then report it to the relevant authorities, but  that's all that we can do with it.


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Dave Parham’s reply to the SS Richard Montgomery wreck problem  reminds me of the  TV sketch where an interviewer asks an expert a long question about something and if he agrees, then the interviewed person  says “ yes” and the lights fade out.
“just leave it alone” in this case is not an option. From what I understand the billions to be spent on  building of the new proposed airport depends on a solution being found before any  progress can be made. I am told that the 1999 MCA report “yet to be fully released” despite a freedom of information request being made for its contents. Will say words to the effect that the wreck will fall apart & collapse on itself spilling its cargo of bombs (some live) into the surrounding sea within 5 years (3 to go). So maybe Dave Parham should try to come up with a better solution.
For more up to date information about the wreck, have a look at: The Richard Montgomery Matter 

(copy and paste URL in to your browser)
ronangel, Wed, 7th Dec 2011

Guadalcanal is supposed to be a diver's paradise, and full of armaments in various states of decay.

What is so different about the SS Richard Montgomery?

Perhaps one option would be a planned demolition.
Inform the neighboring town, and assist with boarding up windows and a full evacuation except emergency personnel.

Blow up the ship.

Send out fishermen to pick up the dead fish 

Some ordinances might be scattered, but it would prevent a future chain-reaction explosion, and some effort could be made on a search & destroy basis for individual ordinances, but it would likely be less dangerous than the live ordinances that are still being found in battle zones on land. CliffordK, Wed, 7th Dec 2011

Have a look at my website and things like "Bari" the wrecks exact location in regards to gas refinery power station  and two holiday resorts. Also Sundaytimes article then come back  and suggest blowing it up.
ronangel, Wed, 7th Dec 2011

I found it on Google Maps, more or less.

One could certainly limit the damage and casualties with a planned demolition.  Trying to move it, or empty the ship sounds like too great of a risk of an unplanned explosion.  The other option, of course, is just leaving it alone as has been done for the last 60 years.  Pumping it full of sand might minimize the movement of ordinances.  It would remain as a potential terrorist target.

If one waited until high tide, there would be greater risk of flood damage.  However, one might be able to limit the impact of the blast by aerating the water around the blast area. CliffordK, Wed, 7th Dec 2011

It will be 71 years since the SS Richard Montgomery sank off sheerness on 20 august 2015. The wreck is safe to clear but not to leave beginning to break up becoming more dangerous every day. Could this be the reason nobody has done anything about it. Only a matter of time. The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. “The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It can result in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation. ronangel, Wed, 19th Aug 2015

Still there, safe to remove before it collapses on itself and spills its deadly cargo on to the surrounding seabed along side all the live munitions dumped there by local fishermen, so as not to lose a days catch while waiting for the coastguard to collect the bombs caught in their nets! But NOT to leave. See The Richard Montgomery Matter: ron angel, Mon, 21st Nov 2016

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