On a recent hike to Raft Cove my children (who were visiting) and I came across a Marine Location Marker C2A2 on the beach.
On closer inspection, we noticed that the metal cylinder was marked ‘hazardous material warning – contact police or military’.
I contacted the RCMP the next morning who advised they would relay the information to CFB Comox.
A little Google searching determined that Marine Location Markers are primarily used by the military in anti-submarine warfare operation as a positional marker on the water surface.
They are also used in search and rescue operations, or to determine wind direction and speed, or in any situation, day or night, where a fixed sea surface reference point is required.
They are designed to be released from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, however they may also be hand-launched from surface vessels.
Within days of learning about the Raft Cove marker, Cpl. Terry Sawchuck from the Explosive Disposal Flight of the 19 Air Maintenance Squadron came and hiked down to retrieve it.
I decided to phone CFB Comox to find out more about the device and what it was doing on the beach.
According to Lt. Edward Jensen, the markers show up fairly often on local shorelines. In 2014, they retrieved 162.
“This was our busiest year yet,” said Jensen.
Marine markers are filled with red phosphorous.
They have two holes in them and start to burn on contact, said Jensen.
The markers emit a high-intensity yellow flame and white smoke for up to 20 minutes.
“When they are full of water, they sink. Sometimes they get snuffed out when they are only half burned,” said Jensen, which is why people should not touch them.
“The danger is that they could start burning again. Phosphorous is pretty bad for you,” he said.
For this reason, anyone who finds a marker is advised to contact the RCMP or military immediately.
Depending on where the marker is found, the military will retrieve it using either their Zodiak boat or a truck, said Jensen. Once they arrive on scene, military personnel decide whether it should be brought back to base for destruction, or if, for safety purposes, it needs to be blown up immediately on site.