Bomb squad destroys washed up ordnance on Philbin Beach

The canister was punctured, perhaps in an attempt to sink it. — Photo courtesy of Aquinnah Police

The State Police bomb squad used a controlled explosive charge Thursday, to destroy a piece of military ordnance a resident discovered to the west of Philbin Beach in Aquinnah.

Aquinnah police Chief Randhi Belain said there is no danger to the public, but he reminded beachgoers to exercise caution and contact police immediately should they come across any military ordnance.

In a telephone conversation with The Times, Tom Rancich, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, who spent part of his career as a Navy SEAL dealing with disposal of unexploded bombs, identified the object as a canister fired off ships to defend against planes and missiles.

The canister carries reflective material, or chaff, used to prevent enemy radar from homing in on a target. The chaff is distributed with an explosive charge.

Mr. Rancich said he arrived on the beach about 3:30 pm. He said the canister was punctured, perhaps by someone with the intention that it would sink.

He said the canister may have floated around for some time. “It was probably not an explosive hazard,” but there was just no way to tell,” he said.

Mr. Rancich’s company, VRHabilis, is currently under contract to help the US Army Corps of Engineers in its survey and cleanup of World War II era munitions from former practice sites along the Island’s south shore. He said he went to Aquinnah as a courtesy.

Most of the military explosives discovered periodically on Island beaches dates to the World War II years, when training and gunnery practice was common here. However, the military used Nomans Land just to the south of Aquinnah as a practice site from 1952 to 1996. The Navy later performed a cleanup of the 628-acre island, which included an effort to find and disarm unexploded shells and remove contaminated soil.

In May, a fisherman hauled up a rusted cannon shell off Lobsterville Beach. The State Police bomb squad destroyed it in a controlled explosion.

Although the area off Lobsterville was not used for training, local fishermen report anecdotally that WWII airplane wreckage has been discovered in that area.