Rhode Island Fishermen Catch 500-Pound WWII-Era Depth Charge

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: picture alliance / Contributor

According to reports, earlier this month, on Oct. 25, a commercial fisherman from Narragansett, Rhode Island, pulled in an explosive device from World War II. 

Last Tuesday, the Ocean State was nearly four miles east of Block Island when fishermen caught the device. Later, the U.S. Navy identified the item as a MK 6 depth charge. The undetonated explosive also weighed 520 pounds and contained around 267 pounds of dynamite.

According to Captain Glen Westcott, the fishermen were immediately concerned about the large, barrel-shaped object. As a result, Westcott immediately notified the U.S. Coast Guard of the discovery. Later, a boat from USCG’s Station Point Judith found Westcott and his crew and took them to a safe area.

Then, the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordinance Mobile Unit took over and offloaded the device from the Ocean State. They also set up a safety perimeter surrounding the area. Finally, on Wednesday morning, the EODMU team took the device a mile offshore to safely detonate it.

“We heard a popping, suction-y sound,” Westcott said after the detonation, explaining that the crew could feel the impact of the large discharge from his boat. “It was like somebody racked a big, big hammer against the side of the boat.”

Fishermen find decades-old explosive device from World War II

Beth Baker, the director of public affairs for the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, later confirmed that the depth charge was a WWII-era MK 6. She also gave insights into the history of the explosive device. 

Baker said a famous naval battle occurred where the fishermen were fishing. She believes the explosive was one of 195 depth charges that Allied Forces deployed to destroy a German U-Boat.

Initially created in 1916 by the British Royal Navy, depth charges acted as one of the first weapons explicitly made for anti-submarine combat during World War I. 

Typically, these devices would be dropped by an aircraft or ships on the water’s surface. Then, they would detonate at a specific depth, creating a shockwave that could hurt or destroy an enemy submarine. However, the enemy sub had to be close enough to the detonation.

Throughout the years, the original Mark 1 depth charge was updated and replaced by newer models. The Mark 6 was initially put into use in 1938, a year before the beginning of World War II. MK 6 devices were used widely during the war, and more than 200,000 were built for use. 

However, they weren’t all that effective, as it would usually take multiple depth charges detonated within close range of a U-Boat to destroy the submarine. In addition, it took a lot of work to drop them correctly. As a result, homing torpedoes eventually replaced the weapons with better accuracy.