Authorities in St. Pete Beach, Florida, dealt with some beach detritus considerably worse than an old cooler or dead jellyfish on Sunday – a World War II-era M122 flare.
Discovered by a beachcomber early Sunday morning, the barnacle-crusted, 4-ft.-long bomb’s presence necessitated a beach evacuation, the construction of a sand berm around the object, and the involvement of nearby MacDill Air Force Base’s explosive ordnance disposal team.
Regardless of the possible danger, there ain’t no party like an antique-bomb-disposal party: The Tampa Bay Times reports that visitors lined up folding chairs on the other side of the 1,400-ft. perimeter around the bomb.
“Nothing ever happens out here. It’s so crazy,” Katie Hellier, 49, told the Times.
Less amused, presumably, were the sea turtles displaced by the event. Three nests were located in the evacuated area, and authorities constructed additional sand berms around them. The nonprofit group Sea Turtle Trackers supervised the explosion, and they told St. Pete Beach Mayor Maria Lowe that the nests were not physically touched, but until hatching season ends, the larger effects of the bomb on the turtles won’t be apparent.
The ordnance turned out to be a flash bomb, used to illuminate photographic missions. Weighing 103 lbs., it had a candlepower of 45 million, creating a flash so bright, a 1957 U.S. Navy explosives guide warned it would be “detrimental to vision to watch the explosion.”
That explosion occurred a little after 5 p.m. Black and gray smoke followed a dull thump from the buried bomb; the crowd applauded briefly and then dispersed. “I hope you’ve had a great day at the beach with a little excitement,” Mayor Lowe said before the detonation.