May 27, 2016 10:19 am
Updated: May 27, 2016 1:06 pm

Canadian navy divers dismantle unexploded underwater mine in Baltic Sea

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In an effort to improve seafaring safety, navy divers from Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic in Shearwater and Fleet Diving Unit Pacific in Victoria successfully detonated an unexploded mine in the Baltic Sea Wednesday.

Alongside divers from the American navy and participants from several other countries, the Canadian clearance divers were part of the annual Operation Open Spirit.

The 11-man dive team was given a series of contacts from various countries that have side-scan equipment.

They identified mine-like objects in the depths of the ocean and then dove down to investigate.

“Over the 10 days, we cleared just shy of 70 contacts with the last contact being a mine,” Petty Officer Second Class Clearance Diver Evan Beaton said on the phone from Lithuania on Friday.

The other contacts they investigated were mine-shaped boulders that, without getting an up-close look, are hard to decipher if they’re a mine or a rock.

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The process is very specific, for safety reasons: the divers identify a contact and swim to it for a visual check, while using certain protocol for approaching a mine.

Then, if it’s determined to be a mine, the team resurfaces to do research on the best way to dismantle it.

Beaton said that heading town into the 80-90 feet of murky water to inspect the explosives is “a bit of a gut check.”

“The mines are packed with high explosives and the whole point of them was to take down a whole ship in WWI and WWII, so to have a diver in the vicinity would be catastrophic if it went off,” he said.

“Any time that you go in on a contact or influence mine you are to assume that it’s armed and ready to initiate.”

After several attempts to locate and dismantle Wednesday’s mine, and despite choppy seas, Beaton said the experience was very rewarding.

“You could feel it under your feet pretty strong,” he said, describing the explosion.

They were about 200 metres away from the mine in a boat when it was detonated.

Beaton said that each year, Operation Open Spirit is facilitated by a different Baltic state, this year’s was Lithuania.

Canada has been a part of four Operation Open Spirit missions.

“We look forward to coming back in the future and having a successful operation,” Beaton said.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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