Authorities warn people to stay away from Brown’s Island

3 May 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

As warmer weather approaches more and more people will be looking for outdoor activities to do, and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune offers many places to hike, have a picnic, fish and boat.

For boating and fishing, the North Carolina coastline may seem like the ideal place to drop anchor and cast a fishing pole in hopes of catching the big one. However there is one island that service members and civilians are not allowed to step on or drop anchor nearby.

Brown’s Island and the surrounding waterways are off limits due to the amount of unexploded ordnance in the area. Past studies have shown that the island, its waterways and the ocean bottom are littered with more than 5,000 unexploded shells.

“At one time we were finding 500-1,000-pound bombs in the surf line and having to detonate them,” said James Helring, the range control officer for Camp Lejeune. “A slight difference in temperature or even a nudge might set one of these things off.”

The island has been used for extensive training since World War II and is still in use today as an artillery impact area and other training. It is considered a high hazard impact area not only for the ongoing training, but also for the unexploded ordnance that sometimes washes up onshore.

Camp Lejeune officials are taking no risks and are working to ensure that no one will be injured because of Brown’s Island. Patrols will be conducted regularly during the summer months, and signs are placed throughout the island warning people of the unexploded ordnance in the vicinity.

“Sometimes we get people who pull up to the sign and don’t go any further,” said Helring. “The unexploded ordnance isn’t just behind the signs, it’s everywhere near it as well.”

People found on the island may be cited for violating the Code of Federal Regulations 334.440, which states there are highly sensitive unexploded projectiles within the limits of this area.

“The beach may look pretty, calm and quiet,” said Helring. “But it is an extreme hazard and some (unexploded ordnance) can go off any time.”

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