Munitions Dumping at Sea


It is no secret that the U.S. military has used the ocean as trashcan for munitions in the past. Peter discussed at the Old DSN how federal lawmakers were pressing the US Army to reveal everything it knows about a massive international program to dump chemical weapons off homeland and foreign shores. “The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste – either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.” Brian pointed me to the Daily Press’s in depth coverage of this whole issue. Registration is free and only takes a minute or two and is extremely worthwhile. Included at the site are maps of disposal sites (downloadable as pdfs), stories, descriptions of items dumped including nerve and musturd gas, and rather depressing pictures some are below the fold (all from Daily Press).

Hundreds of dolphins washed ashore in Virginia and New Jersey shorelines in 1987 with burns similar to mustard gas exposure. One marine-mammal specialist suspects Army-dumped chemical weapons killed them. (Photo courtesy of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in New Jersey)


The SS William Ralston filled with 301,000 mustard gas bombs and 1,500 1-ton canisters of Lewsite — sinks in the Pacific off San Fransico in 1958 (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)


Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

90 Replies to “Munitions Dumping at Sea”

  1. To answer your post, Frances (#19), “This kind of information makes me cringe. Was there ever a species that was so abyssmally incompetent at managing its own environment? Is there any other species that would do this kind of damage to its own habitat?”,

    YES! There actually are species like Homo Sapiens which do the same kind of thing. They’re called bacteria and viruses. They infect their host, devour it’s resources, dump their toxins willy-nilly, breed like there’s no tomorrow, which finally kills their host, dooming themselves to extinction unless some of them can transfer to a new host to start the process anew. I guess Homo Sapiens needs to start looking for a new planet to infect.
    Actually, I was thinking of putting a little twist on it though. If the Progressives could get together and launch all the Neocon right-wing hypocrit “pro-lifers” off to their own planet, preferably far, far away in a solar system of their own where they can merrily go about their business of over-breeding/polluting/chest-beating/war-mongering/killing in the name of God/censoring & repressing free speech/sleep-walking while spewing ideological dogma/head-up-the-butt-following-the-leader-over-the-cliff/etc, they’ll eventually bring about their own extinction.
    Meanwhile, back on Mother Earth, the Liberals will be using their brains to foster the rebirth of a clean environment, living sustainably, responsibly using birth-control, promoting peace, tolerance, understanding, free-speech and openess where all people can live together happily in harmony.

  2. i am not the least bit surprised, only surprised it took this long to come to light. makes me sick….

  3. Re the East Coast, we can only guess at what surprises might be in store if off shore drilling for oil and natural gas were to ever take place in these areas.

  4. Who in the #@*% do they think they are? I am too angry for words. I do think somebody needs to be punished and laws enforced. Lets starting by throwing Bush out to sea along with his croonies.

  5. According to Dan, killing people with pollution is the work of an “overbreeding,” “Neocon right-wing hypocrite” who kills “in the name of God.” In whose name do you and your hippie Liberal Utopians kill unborn babies? Just asking.

  6. Can you name one non-profit organization with the balls to sue the bastards?

  7. To the person who said he didn’t know of any monitoring: Google and a guess or two will help.
    Searching Google Scholar for: transuranic farallones
    brings up, just a few examples from many:

    Transuranic radionuclides in the environment surrounding radioactive waste diposal sites, a

  8. I wonder where the government head is when they do stuff like this, oh wait, I know. They won’t be happy till we all glow in the dark. I don’t remember ever seeing this on the evening news, probably thought it wasn’t newsworthy. We didn’t have a need to know. I will try to get this in my local newspaper and see what the number two red state thinks about this.

  9. I helped NGS pull dying dolphins from the waters off Va Beach in 87 and 88. They were trying to figure out what was going on and I never heard a conclusion. I’m thinking this was it. Gosh I feel so much better. It’s okay if we left wing wackos blame industry Mr Tremblay, it’s all the same to the clam. Industry = People, the temptation to protect or condemn industry is unfounded. People are to blame, specifically, primarily white older male people. The mission is now to fix and redesign. Anyone ignorant enough to now attempt to hinder that process or deliberately derail progress in remediation is frankly a global terrorist, to use the neo-con lexicon. (I like that, it rhymes, neo-con lexicon, sounds like Jesse Jackson if you say it right.)

  10. A few weeks ago I went out on a dig to a marl pit here in New Jersey, and for some reason there was a rusty, silt-encrusted grenade not 5 feet away from my car when I parked. Apparently it had accidentally been trucked in from Surf City, and the bomb squad had to show up and take care of it.

  11. Once had a college geography teacher who said, “the earth will be fine, it’s the human’s that concern me.” All this stuff eventually works it way to the core of the earth where it’s incinerated. Doesn’t make it right what has been done, and will continue to be done.

    This certainly did turn out to be an interesting post. Enjoyed reading each and everyone’s opinion too.

    What was most interesting though is that after post #29, Herbert Levinson, there wasn’t one single comment directed towards him.
    Herbert, sir, thank you for posting. Your last two sentences: “People are too occupied and tired when they come home from work. They have little time for protest. It’s something that you quickly burn out from.
    The young have to get fired up about the carelessness of past decades after all they will inherit it all”.


  12. Dear CR and Peter,
    I notice none of the maps show the Caribbean, specifically Puerto Rican waters, where the US Navy maintained firing ranges for the navies of the “free” world until 2003. Can you steer me to any useful data about this part of the world’s salt water?
    If you’d be kind enough to reply to my email address so I don’t have to scroll through all these messages to find your answer, I’ll really appreciate it.

  13. Hi Stanley,

    I’m sort of sitting for craig and peter while they are at sea (or soon to be). The following is from the sometimes authoritative Wikipedia (,_Puerto_Rico#Public_health)

    “There have been claims linking Vieques’ high cancer rate to the long history of US weapons testing on the island, especially after the US Navy admitted using depleted uranium at least on one occasion in 1999. Dr. Nayda Figueroa, an epidemiologist for Puerto Rico’s Cancer Registry, claimed that research showed Vieques’ cancer rate (latest available is for 1995 to 1999) was 31 percent higher than for the main island. Dr. Michael Thun, head of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society, cautioned that the variations in the rates could be attributed to chance, given the small population on Vieques. A 2000 NRC report concluded that “the public had not been exposed to depleted uranium contamination or other radiation above normal background (naturally occurring) levels”.

    “In response to concerns about potential contamination from toxic metals and other chemicals, the United States ATSDR agency conducted a number of surveys in 1999

  14. this is what happens when goverment is’nt checked what ever happened to goverment by the people for the people not goverment for poltitians

  15. Seriously, can a grenande or ammo under water for 50 years still be viable?

    I had a professor who told us when he was a student he was told about Fort Deitrich dumping its biological warfare research waste in the ocean.

  16. Your tax dollars at work! We always pray that these expensive outdated munitions would never be used against innocent victims, yet here they are, in our collective face, and hopefully that face won’t be as painfully disfigured as the poor dolphin’s shown here! Is the goal of our military, or ANY military for that matter, to turn a living paradise into a dying hell? The masters of war are hard at work, perpetual war on perpetual peace. Let’s elect a president who will stop this garbage from being dumped ANYWHERE! I doubt ANY of the present candidates give a tinker’s damn about this abomination!

  17. I’ve heard stories from Navy men who say that (aviation)fuel is dumped into the ocean often to keep budgets elevated.

  18. There is one solution to all this. . . It will take trillions of dollars to clean up the earth, but it’s got to be done. NOW HOW WILL this be achieved? Simple.

    First, expose 9-11 as definitely an inside job, with all national leaders and governments accessories after the fact.

    Second, expose the Bogus World Monetary System.

    Third, support popular revolutions worldwide.

    Last but not least, since wars will be a thing of the past (all orchestrated by arms dealers, by the way, not religious fundamentalists) — all that money can be used now to repair global damage and pollution, so that the human race HAS A CHANCE, ‘NOT’ “a chance in hell.”


  19. I have been impressed by the longevity this post has had. One and a half weeks in the scienceblogs top 5. How much of that is due to raw emotion and not pausing to read or think?

    A common sentiment expressed over the past ten days is similar to this snippet.

    Let’s elect a president who will stop this garbage from being dumped ANYWHERE!

    May I now quote from one of the two linked articles?

    “…before Congress banned the practice in 1972.”

    Looks like we already elected politicians who will stop this practice thirty-five years ago.

  20. You should hear of some of the stuff that’s been dumped in the Marshall Islands from our nuclear testing of the 50’s and 60’s! I worked there for many years and was a medic who tested employees for years for different chemical and radioactive exposure during the 1980’s. Its a damn shame…..

  21. “I have been impressed by the longevity this post has had. One and a half weeks in the scienceblogs top 5. How much of that is due to raw emotion and not pausing to read or think?”

    Exactly, did anyone read the articles?

  22. Thanks for putting the chart of the toxins dumped into our oceans on the web. It is startling information that should be available for all Americans to read. Is there a government website available to corroberate this information, especially through the Freedom of Information Act? Thanks


  23. greetings to all of you -yes we suffer from our industrial waste–I pickup trash around lake Merced , look for lead sinkers in the shallows along shoreline, a tiny gesture to make a difference –I guess I am a bit depressed about all the abuse and misuse of our precious resources–this is the first time in history that the california king salmon is off limits to all fishing—a renewable recource –someone is responsible for this breach of conduct —the resource management agency of the state of california–so not to get upset –I go to try to perform an act of chairity –in a small way to show I care –I love to fish–

  24. Just gota say, if it takes the life of a dolphin to find a bomb that saves human lifes, then I have no problem, and I have no issues eatting them in cans either. I love your blog, the colors vib colors are just cool.

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