Royal Navy experts blow up old torpedo during four-day operation


Royal Navy bomb disposal experts have safely blown up an old torpedo in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. A specialist team from the Royal Navy’s Diving and Threat Exploitation Group travelled to Orkney after survey ship MV Athena found the aged device while scanning a route for underwater cables between Flotta and South Ronaldsay.

The coastguard was alerted to the device and a 100-metre exclusion zone was set-up around the location.

“It was a challenging task,” says Roy Edwards, diver. “The suspected ordnance was located 210 metres from an oil pipeline and the weather was also an issue with a sea state 2-3 and wind gusting at 20 knots.

“The torpedo was very degraded, and we needed to move it to a safe location, away from the pipeline, before it could be safely disposed of. It was a delicate job.”

The operation was broken down into several phases. After diving, locating, and marking the torpedo, the team attached straps and used underwater lifting equipment to raise it carefully to the surface. It was then towed four kilometres to a new location well away from underwater cables, pipelines and fish farms.

Finally, the divers carried out a controlled underwater explosion to dispose of the ordnance.

Unfortunately, the condition of the torpedo was poor and could not be definitively identified, although it was thought to be a Mark 8 torpedo, a type which first entered production in the 1920s.

The task at Scapa Flow is the third which Charlie Squadron has attended on Orkney this year.

In total, the team has tackled 63 conventional munitions disposal tasks and three improvised explosive device tasks throughout their area of operation, which is from Liverpool to Hull then northwards to encompass Scotland including all the outlying islands.

At the start of this year, the Navy was called in to help a specialist firm cut the masts from a sunken cargo ship in the River Thames, after a survey revealed decay could trigger a deadly explosion of 1,400 tonnes of explosives on board.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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