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July 21, 2004

Remember that H-bomb you lost?

...somebody may have found it.

Sea sleuths zero in on lost H-bomb

If found, leave it alone, Air Force says

BY TONY BARTELME
Of The Post and Courier Staff
A group of amateur nuclear bomb hunters from Georgia said Tuesday they may have pinpointed a lost 7,600-pound hydrogen bomb the Air Force accidentally dropped in the ocean near Savannah in 1958.

Using equipment that detects radiation and large metal objects, the group scoured a football-field-sized area off Tybee Beach Tuesday morning.

Derek Duke, a retired Air Force colonel who has made the so-called "Tybee bomb" his personal mission, said the group's gear identified a spot where radiation levels were seven to 10 times greater than normal.

Duke said he and his colleagues then detected "a massive underwater object."

"It might be nothing," he said. "Our big question now is, 'What do we do next?'"

The Air Force's answer: Leave it alone.

I'm with the Air Force on this one. I do collect ordnance - but there are some things I will just leave laying where they are found. Don't want this to be my last newspaper entry...

Of course, if they have found it - I don't think the Air Force is going to be able to ignore it. There's fissile material there, and 400lbs of explosives. The bomb was not fully armed - it did not have it's second fissile element (plutonium) installed - it's still there, and once it's location is known, someone (however unlikely) may try to get it, for their own nefarious purposes. So, if it pans out - I suspect the DoD will be in the middle of a sh1t storm in dealing with it.

The rest is in the Flash Traffic.

Why?

"If you want to determine for sure that it was the Mark 15 (nuclear bomb), you would have to dig it up with a big dredging type of operation, and that presents two risks," Mullins said.

The first: A dredge could hit the bomb and detonate the high explosives, threatening the salvage crew.

The second: An explosion might blow a hole in a clay layer protecting an aquifer that supplies drinking water to Savannah.

"We really don't think it's in the best interest in the safety of Savannah to be digging around there when it's perfectly safe where it is," Mullins said.

I'll quibble here. I think there are technologies out there that can determine if it is the bomb without digging it up first.

Secondly, there are technologies that can dig to the bomb without brute forcing your way there... that are used in underwater recovery all the time. I don't think wishing this away is going to work... and the AF spokesman probably should talk to the Navy about underwater salvage - and more importantly, to archaeologists like the guys who raised the Hunley. Just sayin'.

Mullins, however, said that even if Duke's people found the bomb and passed the information to the Air Force, "our position would still be that it is best left alone."

Whistlin' in the dark, Mr. Mullins. If it *is* the bomb in question, it's going to be as much a political decision as a military one.

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