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World War II-era bombs found lying among prized corals off Hawaii, endangering divers

Mark Price
·2 min read

World War II-era bombs have been found hiding among the prized corals at a site off Hawaii that is known as one of the world’s most popular diving destinations.

One of the two potentially live bombs is “within 2-3 yards of significant rock bench and coral habitat,” according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Three suspected bombs have been investigated off Lanai’s south shore and two were found to be potentially dangerous, department said in a Facebook post Wednesday.

The third object proved to be an empty pipe, officials said. However, experts have not ruled out the possibility another bomb remains undiscovered in the same area.

The island of Lanai is known to attract divers from around the world. The seafloor includes a mix of lava tubes and unique corals the have merged into a “breathtaking alien seascape of towering arches, striking pinnacles and light-filled lava-tube caverns,” SportDiver.com reports.

Among the best known of the formations are two cavern-like sites known as the First Cathedral and Second Cathedral. State officials did not say if the bombs pose a danger to the two formations.

The bombs were found 300 yards off shore in late March by two recreational divers, who reported them to the Division of Aquatic Resources, officials said. A dive team was quickly sent “to identify any potential UXO (unexploded ordnance) impacts on reefs and the marine environment.”

U.S. Navy experts confirmed the two bombs are “probable WWII munitions” and sit between 74 and 94 feet down, officials said.

“It’s possible ... that there is another UXO in the same area, but they were unable to find it,” officials said.

The U.S. Army is conducting “a risk assessment” to determine how the threat should be handled, officials said. Until then, divers are being kept out of the area. It is not uncommon for experts to do a controlled detonation of old weaponry, but that might damage surrounding coral.

“We will keep the Lana‘i community informed about any plans for these UXO, which could include leaving them in place,” DLNR Chair Suzanne case said in a statement.

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