A military device washed up on Belongil Beach, Byron Bay.
A military device washed up on Belongil Beach, Byron Bay.

Bomb squad called to deal with potentially dangerous UXO

PLENTY of people have heard of UFOs, but when it comes to UXOs, or unexploded military ordnance, beach goers at Byron Bay's Belongil Beach on the weekend got more than they bargained for.

The Department of Defence has confirmed that the device, which washed ashore at the beach on Sunday, was indeed a Marine Marker Mark 58.

And, in typical low-key military speak this UXO could, potentially, have been dangerous to handle.

Marine markers are used for all types of air-to-sea surface marking that use smoke and flame.

The Mark 58 can be launched day or night from high-speed aircraft, helicopters or surface ships to provide a long-burning, smoke and flame reference-point on the ocean's surface.

They are typically used in search and rescue missions.

Local police did the right thing, reporting it to Defence, who basically sent down a bomb squad from Queensland to dispose of it at site.

A man walking his dog at the beach on Saturday described it as the size of a fence post and covered in barnacles.

In a statement the Department of Defence said: "Defence can confirm that on 18 October 2020, New South Wales police requested Defence assistance following the discovery of a suspected item of military explosive ordnance at Belongil Beach, Byron Bay.

"Defence routinely assists state policing agencies in the safe recovery or disposal of suspected unexploded military ordnance (UXO).

"The Joint Explosive Ordnance Support - Queensland attended the scene and identified the item as a Marker Locating Marine MK58. The item was assessed as not safe for transport and was disposed of at the scene."

Defence did not answer specific questions about how it might have ended up at the beach or if it was dangerous to members of the public.

But in a fact sheet Defence provided about the MK 58 it states: "Both unexpended and expended markers are often found in maritime areas and washed ashore.

"A number of incidents have occurred with the similar marine markers due to unexpended phosphorus or a build-up of a phosphorous-type crust - this has occasionally resulted in either fire injury/damage or low-order detonation (rupturing of the case) if the item is disturbed or re-exposed to water."

In short, it COULD have been dangerous to passers-by, hence the decision to dispose of it there and then.

We may never know how or why the marker ended up there, that information remains top secret, but I am sure that beach goers at Belongil won't forget their encounter with an UXO any time soon.

* If a member of the public finds a suspicious item, such as unexploded ordnance, or has any already in their possession, they should not touch or disturb it. The local police should be contacted, and they will arrange for military experts to attend and dispose of the item as required. Further information on unexploded ordnance and how suspicious items should be dealt with can be found at http://www.defence.gov.au/uxo/