On Tuesday, a naval mine appeared floating in the waters off the coast of Bainbridge Island in Washington State, not far from Kitsap Naval Base. The contact-style mine seemed to appear out of thin air in the heavily trafficked waterway just outside of Seattle, prompting officials to instruct locals to shelter in place while Navy explosive ordnance disposal personnel dealt with the threat.
The Coast Guard established a 1,500-meter perimeter around the mine, which they referred to only as “potentially unexploded ordnance,” while Navy divers approached and inspected the mine. Eventually, they were able to secure the mine to a boat and tow it away from the Brownsville Marina it had drifted near. Once it was far enough away from shore that Navy personnel were confident that it wouldn’t pose a threat to nearby civilians or property, the EOD team detonated the mine.
You can watch that detonation below:
Amazing camera work by @PhotogGriff @KIRO7Seattle capturing the moment the mine was detonated this evening near Bremerton/Bainbridge Island. The mine found earlier today in waters off Brownsville Marina no longer a danger to the public. pic.twitter.com/Iz4cnSwPXE
— Ranji Sinha (@RanjiKIRO7) August 29, 2018
The exact origin of the mine remains a bit of a mystery, though one the Navy doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned about. Contact mines of a similar variety were employed heavily throughout the second World War, but admittedly, images of the mine seem to suggest that it’s in awfully good condition to be a forgotten relic of the 1940s. Navy personnel were quoted as saying that the mine had about “a decade’s worth” of organic growth on it, seeming to suggest that it had been deployed far more recently than World War II. The Navy’s behavior would seem to suggest that they’re confident in the mine’s origin, as no effort has begun to sweep the area for other potential mines. That alone would seem to suggest a high level of confidence that no others will appear.
— Brian Michael (@KOMOBrianM) August 28, 2018
The Kitsap Naval Base is massive, capable of supporting even the largest Ford Class supercarriers, and it plays a vital role in the decommissioning of nuclear-powered warships. It stands to reason that the U.S. Navy would have a series of defensive assets in place in the surrounding region, but a contact mine in such a busy waterway seems like an unusual, if not irresponsible, strategy.
Then again, the video of mine shows no secondary explosion like one would expect from live ordnance. If the mine had been live, the video would have likely shown an initial explosion followed by a secondary blast a split second later as the EOD explosives engaged the explosives housed within the mine. The lack of such an explosion would suggest that the mine was either so old it failed to function, or perhaps housed to actual explosive ordnance at all.