Canadian divers detonate unexploded underwater mine in Baltic Sea

Divers from Shearwater and Victoria successfully detonated an unexploded, underwater mine Wednesday in the Baltic Sea.

Underwater mines in Baltic Sea date back to first and second World Wars

Petty Officer 2nd Class Evan Beaton from Fleet Dive Unit (Atlantic) is lowered into the water using silent entry procedures for a mine search dive during Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2016. ( Lt(N) Joel Cormier/Submitted)

Divers from Shearwater and Victoria successfully detonated an unexploded underwater mine Wednesday in the Baltic Sea.

Eight divers from Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic in Shearwater and three divers from Victoria were in Lithuania with 12 other countries for Operation Open Spirit. Their mission is to detonate mines left over from the First and Second World Wars.

The real deal 

Lt. Joel Cormier from Shearwater was second in command of dive operations.

"I've done exercises before but this is my first, actual, real operation when you're dealing with real, actual mines," he said over the phone from Klaipeda, Lithuania.

The team holds the title of clearance drivers because they're trained to clear minefields but there are no underwater mines in Canada, Cormier said.

That's why this operation means so much to Cormier.

"It's very rewarding and satisfying," he said.

'There's rocks everywhere'

Every year Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania take turns hosting the operation to help rid the Baltic Sea of wartime mines, Cormier said. The work helps make their shipping lanes safer.

The Canadian team has been in Lithuania for two weeks,with teams from countries such as Belgium, Germany and Estonia. They had an "unlucky" first week, said Cormier.

"We had a lot of contacts," he said, referring to rocks that have a shape and shadow that look like a mine, but they're not. 

About 25 metres underwater, the divers could see massive rocks about six metres long, Cormier said.

"You just swim and you see a big rock, and you look right and there's a big rock," he said. "There's rocks everywhere."

But on Tuesday, they found their first mine. On Wednesday, they blew it up.

Cormier says he thinks this was one of a total of eight mines found throughout the operation, which was divided into three different operating areas.

Two of the mines were found in the area where the Canadian divers were working.

The divers finished Thursday and will leave Lithuania over the weekend.