The US military dropped four bombs weighing a total of 4,000 pounds on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as part of a training exercise last week. The bombs, which were unarmed, were supposed to be jettisoned over the nearby Townshend Island, but that mission was aborted when it was reported that hazards made it unsafe to follow through as planned. Instead, the pilots of four AV-8B Harrier jets unloaded their bombs over the World Heritage Site because they were low on fuel and could not land with the heavy load.

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Australian Senator Larissa Waters, the Greens spokeswoman on the Great Barrier Reef, called last Tuesday’s event “outrageous,” The Guardian reports.

“Have we gone completely mad?” she told the ABC. “Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?”

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit dropped the bombs in 164ft deep water in an effort to avoid the coral reef, according to a statement issued by the US 7th fleet, but the Great Barrier Reef marine park authority is still investigating ways to recover the unexploded bombs as quickly as possible.

The navy has said it would cooperate with any such efforts, though the park claims that the bombs pose minimal risk to the world’s largest marine reserve.

Activist Graeme Dunstan told the paper that the incident demonstrates that the United States military can’t be trusted to care for the natural environment.

“How can they protect the environment and bomb the reef at the same time?” he asked.

Via The Guardian