The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled travel-hungry Icelanders outdoors on hiking trips, where they have been discovering more than the beauty of nature, RÚV reports. An unusually high number of WWII-era explosives have been found by hikers in Iceland this spring, and the Icelandic Coast Guard’s explosives experts have been kept busy safely disposing of them.
Soldiers are Gone, But Bombs Remain
The British Royal Navy and Royal Marines invaded Iceland on May 10, 1940. The British were later replaced by Canadian and then American forces. Though the troops are long gone, the same can’t be said of all of their explosives. Icelandic authorities have received 15 notifications of bombs already this year – usually they receive around 50 during the summer, only starting in July.
“What we have become aware of this spring is a higher frequency of people finding military artefacts out in nature which usually doesn’t happen until later in the summer. This is, of course, related to the fact that people are travelling more domestically,” stated Ásgeir Guðjónsson, an explosives expert from the Icelandic Coast Guard. “These cannonballs and bombs that are in nature here are made of steel and have lain here for up to 70 years and have therefore become dangerous because time itself has made the material unstable.”
Explosives Scattered Across Land and Water
Ásgeir says it is not known how many such explosives remain in Iceland, but they could number in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands. They are not only scattered across the land, but also in the ocean surrounding Iceland. Sometimes the safest way of disposing of the bombs is to detonate them, as explosives experts did just a few days ago on the Reykjanes peninsula.
Ásgeir cautions hikers to avoid touching or handling any explosives or military artefacts they come across, and inform the police right away. “We want people to take a picture at the location and contact the police directly, call the police and notify,” so that police can deal with the explosive immediately.