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The strange case of the Richard Montgomery: on the evolution of intractable risk

Alexander, DE; (2019) The strange case of the Richard Montgomery: on the evolution of intractable risk. Safety Science , 120 pp. 575-582. 10.1016/j.ssci.2019.08.010. (In press).

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Abstract

In August 1944, the American Liberty Ship SS Richard Montgomery ran aground and wrecked in the Medway Channel, near Sheerness, Kent (England). She carried a cargo of 6225 tonnes of bombs and other explosive war materiel. Only part of the cargo was salvaged and the rest, amounting to 14,571 bombs weighing 3105 tonnes, remains in situ to this day. This paper offers an account of the shipwreck, its aftermath and the debate over managing the risk, which has continued for three quarters of a century. The narrative builds up a picture of the numerous uncertainties in the characterisation of risks associated with the wreck. This makes it very difficult to define the most appropriate strategy for dealing with the problem. Both official and unofficial accounts have been marred by inaccuracy and exaggeration. The conclusion of this investigation is that the data needed for a rigorous assessment of risk using standard procedures do not exist and probably cannot be collected. However, there is no doubt that a clear and present danger exists. The case of the Richard Montgomery is thus a relatively rare example of ungovernable risk for which there are no easy solutions.

Type: Article
Title: The strange case of the Richard Montgomery: on the evolution of intractable risk
DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2019.08.010
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2019.08.010
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: SS Richard Montgomery; munitions; explosion risk; maritime hazards; shipwreck; unexploded ordinance (UXO); Second World War
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Inst for Risk and Disaster Reduction
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080218
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