More World War II-era ammunition has been brought to the surface from underneath Seattle’s busiest cruise ship terminal at Pier 91 in the Magnolia neighborhood.
Most of what they recovered earlier this fall included harmless objects such as training rounds and empty shell casings. But they also discovered projectiles containing high explosive material.
On Thursday, Port of Seattle divers found yet more ammunition at the bottom of Elliott Bay while working on a completely different project: inspecting pier pilings the Port is about to replace.
They brought a projectile to the surface and called explosive experts from the Army to inspect it. The round contained explosive material, officially the Army says they suspect it was live but extensive corrosion prevents them from making a decisive determination.
The site is a priority to take care of because of the unusual scenario of having discarded military ammunition so close to a high human traffic location. Hundreds of massive ships carrying thousands of tourists come in and out of Smith Cove Cruise Terminal in the spring and summer.
Underwater munitions expert Jim Barton says all that activity is a concern. “We are not in imminent danger of an explosion by these munitions, provided somebody doesn’t drop something off the pier, somebody doesn’t drive a pile off the pier, or a bow thruster from a cruise ship … doesn’t exert enough force to turn some loose projectiles on top of each other where it causes a detonation,” said Barton.
The Navy used this area as a huge supply depot from World War II through the early 1970’s. When the Port of Seattle turned it into a cruise ship terminal they didn’t know Navy ammo had been tossed or dropped off the pier. Jim Barton is surprised Port officials were surprised.
“Anybody out there that has a pier that was once used by the military. You must expect them to have handled ammunition during whatever war was taking place during the use of that pier,” said Barton.
“Wherever munitions have been handled in the past, they have rolled off the pier, they’ve been dropped out of cargo net. It’s perfectly normal, it’s expected.”
“The Coast Guard hopes this discovery encourages the Department of Defense to continue to make this remediation project a priority. What was found today magnifies the fact that we don’t know what remains down there. We continue to work together with the Department of Defense and the Port of Seattle to ensure the safety of the community,” said Lt. Jennifer Osburn, Coast Guard, Sector Puget Sound.