U.S. military jettisons bombs near Australia's Great Barrier Reef
July 22, 2013 -- Updated 1139 GMT (1939 HKT)
The Great Barrier Reef is composed of more than 3,000 individual reefs interspersed with more than 600 islands.
- NEW: Official: The Navy is looking at how it can get the bombs out
- U.S. aircraft dropped four unarmed bombs not far from the Great Barrier Reef
- Navy: The planes were running out of fuel and could not land with such cargo
- Report: An Australian lawmaker calls the action "outrageous"
(CNN) -- Two U.S. military aircraft jettisoned four bombs near the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast last week, the U.S. Navy says.
Now, the Navy is looking at how it can get the bombs out, a U.S. Navy official who declined to be identified told CNN.
The two Marine planes abandoned the bombs Tuesday in the national park containing the natural wonder because they were running out of fuel and could not land with the amount of ordnance on board, the Navy said. The two Marine aircraft were launched from a Navy ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard.
Two of the projectiles were explosive bombs that were disarmed before they were dropped. They did not explode, the Navy said. The other two were inert, or non-explosive bombs, the Navy said.
Australian reef threatened
"The jettison box was selected in a deep channel away from the reef to minimize the possibility of reef damage. However the inert and unexploded ordnance is inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area," the Navy official said. "The Navy knows full well how environmentally sensitive the Great Barrier Reef is, and will do everything to make this right."
The pilots chose an area away from the reefs, which contain 400 types of coral. The area was also deep enough to prevent passing ships from running into the bombs, the Navy said.
The reef is home to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 kinds of mollusks, according to the United Nations' World Heritage Convention.
It is also a habitat for animals threatened by extinction and is protected as a World Heritage Site.
U.S. minesweeper lifted from reef
Reports of the incident drew swift condemnation from one Australian lawmaker, who told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the situation was "outrageous."
"I think it's outrageous that we're letting the U.S. military drop bombs on the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef," said Greens Sen. Larissa Waters, according to an article on the Australian network's website. "I mean have we gone completely mad? Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?"
20 of the world's most beautiful World Heritage Sites
Great Barrier Reef found to have thriving deep water coral
CNN's Zarifmo Aslamshoyeva and Larry Register contributed to this report.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.