SS Richard Montgomery: ‘Doomsday’ shipwreck will finally be made safe

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SS Richard Montgomery

The masts of the shipwrecked SS Richard Montgomery

James Bell/Alamy

Three masts sticking up above the waves near the coastal town of Sheerness in the UK mark the spot where a deadly wreck has been rusting for almost 80 years. They belong to the SS Richard Montgomery, a US second world war-era ship that ran aground in August 1944 with a cargo of bombs. The half-submerged wreck, just 2 kilometres from land, still has 1400 tonnes of TNT in its holds.

Almost 20 years after I mounted an investigation for New Scientist into the dangers posed by this doomsday wreck, the UK government has now announced plans to cut back the thick steel masts this year to reduce their weight. This is to prevent them collapsing into the holds, where they would fall onto the bombs and set off an explosion.

A spokesperson for the Department for…

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