SS Richard Montgomery + 1,500 Tons of TNT = Serious Navigational Hazard

August 23, 2012 — 3 Comments
Richard Montgomery

The remains of SS Richard Montgomery
CC Image courtesy of tomylees on Flickr

Today marks the 68th anniversary of the abandonment and beginnings of salvage on the SS Richard Montgomery. The ship ran aground near an approach channel to the Thames River on August 20, 1944 and salvage operations began on August 23rd after it was determined the ship could not be saved. Named after Revolutionary War General Richard Montgomery, the SS Richard Montgomery was a Liberty Ship carrying a cargo of ammunition from the United States to the UK. Liberty Ships were designed by William Francis Gibbs to be cheap, mass-produced cargo haulers for the Allied powers during World War Two. Over 2,500 were built and only two survive today, carrying on service as museum ships – SS Jeremiah O’Brien and SS John W. Brown.

Salvage operations were unable to remove all of its deadly cargo and according to a survey performed in 2010 by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the wreck has 1,500 tons of high explosives still aboard. Due to the presence of so many tons of TNT, the ship remains a serious hazard to navigation and is closely monitored with yearly surveys by UK authorities. A detonation of the ship’s cargo could occur from natural deterioration, a collision with another vessel or even an act of terrorism and would result in an explosion 1/12th the size of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The BBC reported in 2004 that UK authorities believe an explosion could cause a 1,000 x 10,000 foot column of debris and water as well as a 16 foot high wave that would swamp low lying coastal areas.

In death, the SS Richard Montgomery has taken on a pop culture life of its own and has been featured in numerous novels and tv shows. It was even the centerpiece of the fictionalized plot of a 1970s novel wherein terrorists attempted to use speedboats to detonate the ship’s explosives and wreak havoc on the English coast.

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3 responses to SS Richard Montgomery + 1,500 Tons of TNT = Serious Navigational Hazard

  1. 

    have a look at http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com for up to date information and links about the dangers of the wreck.
    also see and sign petition if you agree
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/13021

  2. 

    epetition is now closed.
    The forthcoming public meeting in Chatham “a disaster waiting to happen” about the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery and its effect on the people of Kent and new
    airport proposals. Taking place 27th September 2012 Admission FREE

  3. 

    It will be 71 years since the SS Richard Montgomery sank off sheerness on 20 august 2015.
    The wreck is safe to clear but not to leave beginning to break up becoming more dangerous every day.
    Could this be the reason nobody has done anything about it. Only a matter of time.

    The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations.
    “The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It can result in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.

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