Published: 00:01, 10 June 2015
A paddle boarder triggered a wave of social media interest when he was pictured posing by the potentially explosive remains of the SS Richard Montgomery.
The snap of Shane Skinner with his hand resting on the mast of the wreck, which is thought to contain 3,500 tonnes of munitions, appeared on Facebook.
It has received a reported 20,000 hits since its posting, with opinion wildly divided on the boarders’ decision to sail up close to the doomed ship.
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Eddie Johnson, a Queenborough-based offshore yacht master, was among those shocked by the stunt.
He said: “I’m shocked and concerned people feel it’s okay to do things like this.
“To get to the wreck he’s had to paddle more than two miles out to sea and cut across a shipping lane which is pretty irresponsible.
“If he’d have got into difficulties there would’ve been no way of contacting him.
“The wreck is ringed by a series of buoys and you’re not allowed within that exclusion zone - it states in big writing, ‘don’t go near the wreck’.
The US Liberty ship ran aground off Sheerness in August 1944.
Should its deadly cargo explode, it’s estimated it would cause the biggest blast in UK peacetime.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency carries out annual sonar soundings of the site to assess its safety.
Mr Skinner, 36, a member of Minster Windsurfing Association (MWA), said the trip to the wreck was part of an “innocent little night” on the water last Wednesday.
Video: What would happen if the Montgomery blew? Jem Collins reports
“It wasn’t something we planned,” he said.
“The water was very calm, like a mirror, and we just thought we’d go and view the wreck.
“We wasn’t thinking we’d be risking people’s lives.
“I’d been past it before when out windsurfing, but I’d never it actually stopped to have a look.”
Ricky Wooding, a fellow MWA member who took the photos of Mr Skinner by the wreck, said: “I’ve been windsurfing for 25 years so I know when to enter the sea.
“The tide was low and slack so a perfect opportunity to show how much the wreck’s deteriorated.
“We didn’t tinker with it in any way and saw it as a chance to document history.”
A Sheppey Coastguard spokesman said the wreck was a prohibited zone which was “unwise for anyone to enter”.
“People should keep away from the area,” he said.
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