Navy suspends use of time-delay bombs after dolphin deaths
By Jeanette Steele / SignOnSanDiego / April 25, 2011
The Navy’s Third Fleet said it has halted use of time-delay underwater bombs for training in the waters off San Diego after a March 4 incident that killed at least three dolphins.
The Navy, which on Monday released the results of its investigation into the incident, said it won’t use time-delay mines in training for its bomb-disposal troops under it finishes a review of protective measures. That review is being done in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
[For background, here’s the Union-Tribune’s initial story on the incident.]
Heres the Navy’s account, released Monday:
“On the morning of March 4, when the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit ONE (EODMU-1) arrived at the training location in the Silver Strand Training Complex, they observed a commercial diving vessel and crew operating within 1,000 yards.
The Navy divers monitored the area for the presence of marine mammals for 91 minutes while waiting for the commercial divers to depart.
In accordance with approved training procedures and safety requirements, two fully qualified divers initiated the training by placing a charge on the ocean floor and setting up a time-delay system to detonate it.
The primary diver indicated at 10:31 a.m. that the system was armed and a 15-minute countdown to detonation had begun. The divers surfaced at 10:34 and were recovered by the dive boat, which withdrew to a safe point.
At 10:41, however, safety observers spotted a pod of dolphins approaching the exclusion zone.
With less than five minutes before the detonation, the officer in charge and the demolition operation supervisor conducted an immediate assessment that considered options for stopping the detonation: putting divers back in the water to stop the time-delay system for detonation or pulling the charge up to the surface by the marker buoy to separate the detonators from the main charge.
The officer in charge determined that either option would place Navy personnel in grave danger and had an extremely low chance of success due to the short time frame.
As a last effort, the dive boat was placed between the pod and the detonation site in an effort to guide the dolphins to a safer location, but that effort was unsuccessful.
The charge detonated as planned at 10:46 a.m. Subsequently, three dolphins were recovered, dead, and delivered to National Marine Fisheries Service stranding response personnel.
In addition, a fourth dolphin was recovered near Ocean Beach, Calif., on March 7. This may also be related to the event.”