Navy blows up huge German sea mine in the Mediterranean

DETONATION The bubbling sea where the mine was exploded under the surface
DETONATION The bubbling sea where the mine was exploded under the surface
HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

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THE crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea fizzed and bubbled after HMS Ledbury blasted a Second World War sea mine off the coast of Sardinia.

The Portsmouth-based minehunter destroyed a large device packed with 800lb of high explosives on the seabed near one of the Mediterranean’s busiest harbours on Monday.

BLOWN UP The mine

BLOWN UP The mine

The warship was on patrol off the Sardinian capital Cagliari when her sonar picked up a contact in the depths below.

Ledbury’s sailors launched their remote-controlled Seafox robot, which beamed back a live video feed to the ship.

The Seafox can be used both to identify objects and dispose of them with the explosive charges it carries.

But in this instance, there was so much marine growth on the 70-year-old German mine that it needed a first-hand inspection from Ledbury’s specialist mine clearance divers.

Able Seaman Diver Josh Spibey and the ship’s executive officer, Lieutenant Sean Heaton, donned their gear and went down 141ft to confirm the device was a wartime German GY buoyant contact mine.

It was designed to be anchored to the seabed and float just below the surface, ready to blow up if it was struck by the hull of an unsuspecting vessel.

The sea mine had broken away from its mooring and sunk to the floor of the Mediterranean – but still posed a threat to fishermen or other vessels if it had moved in rough seas.

After getting clearance from the Italian authorities, Ledbury’s dive team went back down to place plastic explosives on the mine.

The Italian Coastguard then ushered a few local fishermen and yachts out of the way before a third of a tonne of explosives was detonated in a huge bang.

Boiling water bubbled to the surface as the wartime device blew a large crater in the sea floor, throwing up mud and sand into the Med’s usually calm waters.

Ledbury’s captain, Lt Tony Williams, said: ‘The discovery and disposal of this mine has demonstrated once again the professionalism and effectiveness of the Royal Navy’s mine countermeasure capability.

‘I am immensely proud of the efforts of my team.’