A replica of the lost Mark IV at a Canadian Museum. (Image: Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada)

A commercial diver working near Haida Gwaii off Canada’s west coast has spotted a strange object on the seafloor that bears a striking resemblance to a nuclear device lost from a US B-36 bomber that crashed in the area 66 years ago. The Canadian government is sending naval ships to investigate.

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Sean Smyrichinsky was diving for sea cucumbers when he noticed an object that looked like a flying saucer. “I came up telling all my buddies on the boat ‘Hey, I found a UFO. It’s really bizarre.’ And I drew a picture of it, because I didn’t have a camera,” he is quoted as saying in the Vancouver Sun. He recounted the story a few days later to some fisherman, prompting one of them to say, “Oh, you might have found that bomb.”

A B-36 bomber. (Image: Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada)

That “bomb” could very well be a lost nuclear device from a US B-36 bomber that crashed near the Haida Gwaii archipelago on February 13, 1950. The plane was traveling from Alaska to Carswell Air Force Base in Texas during a military exercise to simulate a nuclear strike on the city of San Francisco. For added realism, the plane was equipped with a real Mark IV nuclear bomb, but instead of being packed with plutonium, the bomb was loaded with lead and TNT (to be clear, the bomb did not contain any nuclear material).

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The pilots were forced to abandon the plane after ice accumulated on the wings and three of its six engines caught fire. The crew was ordered to detonate the bomb over the Pacific Ocean to ensure that it could never be recovered by the Soviets. The plane was set to autopilot, and it flew on until it crashed into the side of Mount Kologet, about 186 miles (300 km) northeast of where the crew bailed out. Five crew members were killed (likely from hypothermia), but 12 were rescued after they parachuted onto Princess Royal Island.

Map of the “lost nuke.” Haida Gwaii is the landmass shown at bottom left. (Image: Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada)

Based on Smyrichinsky’s description, it’s very likely that he’s stumbled upon this lost Cold War relic. The blimp-like Mark IV weighed nearly 11,000 pounds, and measured 10 feet (1.5 meters) long. “I found this big bowl, at least 12 feet across, maybe bigger,” he told the Vancouver Sun. “Imagine a mushroom cap, it looks like that. The centre of it is sort of cut away. There’s a circle in the middle that I think goes right through.” After looking at photos of the Mark IV on the internet, Smyrichinsky believes he found the housing section for the explosives, which contains a series of pit balls.

Smyrichinsky decided to contact the Canadian Department of National Defence, who in turn alerted the American military. The bomb is likely not active or a threat to anyone, but Canada is sending ships to the site to make sure.

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[Vancouver Sun, BBC]