Royal Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) divers are undertaking a two-week exercise to clear Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) from the seabed at a bombing range off the northern coast of Scotland. Cape Wrath is the only military training area in the UK where air, sea and land exercises can be conducted simultaneously and is also the only range on which the RAF can drop live 1,000lb bombs.
The main target at the range is Garvie Island, whose size conveniently resembles the dimensions of an aircraft carrier. American and NATO forces also practice at the range, in addition to the RAF and the Navy. It is the area around Garvie Island where the divers are focusing their attention. The priority is to find American Mk80 bombs and British 500lb and 1,000lb bombs that failed to detonate during practice. 4lbs of plastic explosive is placed on each UXB found and a five-minute timer set to allowed for a controlled explosion to take place.
Large stretches of the British coastline are potentially contaminated with UXO, mainly as a result of offshore firing practice, in addition to minefields, aircraft crashes, munitions disposal and jettisoned WWII bombs. The requirement to periodically clear active ranges today is partly a result of this legacy, with many areas used for practice during wartime simply left littered with UXO at the end of hostilities.