World War II bombs found in Tuvalu lagoon by international naval contingent

Stephen Wright
World War II bombs found in Tuvalu lagoon by international naval contingent A diver in “Operation Render Safe” approaches an unexploded World War II bomb in waters off Nanumea, an atoll in the Pacific nation of Tuvalu, on September 22, 2022.
New Zealand Defence Force

Updated at 8:30 a.m. ET on 2022-09-28

An international naval operation found nearly two dozen World War II bombs in a lagoon in the Pacific nation of Tuvalu, highlighting the enduring problem of unexploded munitions in the region.

New Zealand’s military said the joint mission with Australia, Canada and the U.S. located the 22 500-pound (227-kilogram) aerial bombs and four small-arms dumps in waters off the island of Nanumea. The operation was requested by Tuvalu’s government. 

The Pacific is littered with unexploded and abandoned weapons that maim and kill, more than seven decades after fierce World War II battles were fought between Japan and the U.S. and its allies. Countries such as the Solomon Islands are particularly affected.

The Australian Defence Force’s commander in the Southwest Pacific, Scott Winter, said identifying World War II munitions in the region was a step toward reducing their indiscriminate effects.

Disposal of the ordnance, located by divers at depths of 10-18 meters (33-59 feet),  is planned for 2023.

The mission, known as Operation Render Safe, began in early September using the New Zealand navy’s underwater survey vessel HMNZS Manawanui.

CORRECTION: An earlier version contained wrong information about the length of time that unexploded munitions have been in waters off Nanumea.


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