Munitions-clearing operation in Östersund

The old artillery range, Bynäset, was frequently used between 1926 and 2005 when the Jämtland wing was active. In 2005 frogmen from the Munitions Clearance Division started the extensive task of clearing the seabed around Åsön from old ammunition, and the operation continued this year.

Johan Widerberg is chief of operations during the munitions clearance task. Photo: Swedish Armed Forces
Photo: Magnus Jirlind/Swedish Armed Forces
Photo: Magnus Jirlind/Swedish Armed Forces
Divers usually work in pairs with a line between them. Photo: Magnus Jirlind/Swedish Armed Forces
Photo: Magnus Jirlind/Swedish Armed Forces
Photo: Magnus Jirlind/Swedish Armed Forces

In 2014 the following munitions were destroyed: 38 aerial bombs, 80 parts of aerial bombs, high-explosive shells, anti-tank grenades and mortars totalling 168 munitions.

"We are very thorough and the risk of injury to private individuals is minimised in the areas we have cleared. It is difficult to give any complete guarantees since munitions often sink down into the sediment on the seabed, which makes our job challenging. Nor do we know how many munitions are on the seabed. This means it is important that private individuals in the area respect the directives and limits that exist," says Johan Widerberg, frogman and head of the operation.

Munitions around Bynäset are old, but still dangerous if handled in the wrong way. A frogman has many years of training and long experience of disarming and handling munitions.

"The water and sediment keeps the munitions intact and what we find and disarm around Åsön is generally in very good condition. If people do not follow the directives for anchoring and access, they can be in mortal danger. If private individuals find any munitions, they must avoid touching them, note their position and call the police," says Johan.

The operation for this year ended on 26 August, by which time 120,000 square metres had been cleared. During most of that time, 20 frogmen were working below the surface.

So far, 10 munitions have been destroyed and a total of 21 items found.