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Dunking the Bomb

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Bomb Disposal is never easy, even with the right tools and knowledge. However, why not get rid of a bomb by throwing it into water, like a swimming pool or an ocean? Some may figure that bombs make explosions, explosions involve fire, and water puts out fire. Therefore, throwing a bomb into water is the perfect way to extinguish it. This works well enough for gunpowder (which is literally impossible to ignite when wet) or really cheap sticks of dynamite, but modern chemical explosives are made — literally — of sterner stuff.

Another reason to try this is that since most electronics don't work underwater, a bomb probably won't either, especially if it has electronic components.

Yet a third reason, which has some basis in fact, is that water is dense and heavy enough to considerably reduce the force and lethal radius of an explosion. This isn't 100% reliable; the bigger the bomb the more water you'd need to absorb the pressure-wave, so a backyard swimming pool could probably contain a single stick of TNT but a two-kilo block of Semtex would need to be dropped in the middle of a decent-sized lake. Shrapnel is another matter, however; you'd need surprisingly little water to prevent such from flying fast enough to be lethal.

Contrast Sea Mine. Dive Under the Explosion could be considered an opposite trope of sorts, given that it involves dunking yourself into the water to avoid the bomb's effects (just don't do both at the same time). Similar to No Waterproofing in the Future where any device suffers from exposure to water.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Justified in an issue of Global Frequency, as the bomb is going to disperse a deadly airborne virus. When it goes off underwater, the pressure is enough to contain the virus.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Wizard of Id. The King is sent an ominously-ticking parcel from the Lone Haranguer, so Sir Rodney dunks it in the moat for a lengthy period. When they open the parcel, it turns out to be a cuckoo clock, with a bird that squirts water in the King's face while chirping, "THE KING [GLUG] IS A FINK [GLUG]!"

    Fan Works 

  • In Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet, the hero disables a bomb that was placed in his office by pouring coffee on the fuse.
  • In Ask a Policeman, the police—who are now paranoid about bombs—find a mysterious ticking package down PC Harbottle's trousers. After briefly panicking, Sgt. Dudfoot thrust the package into a fire bucket. When it stops ticking, they pull it out and unwarp, only to discover it is full of Swiss watches.
  • In Batman Forever, a bomb set up by Two Face at a circus is dropped into the nearby harbor by Dick Grayson where it can explode harmlessly.
  • Subverted in Batman: The Movie. Batman attempts to toss a large Cartoon Bomb off a pier - only be stopped by a guy coming up a ladder, a couple kissing in a rowboat, and then a family of ducks, leading to his famous line "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Batman has to fly the critical nuclear power core out of the city and into the ocean because the coolant machine has been sabotaged (ironically, the villain drowned the coolant to destroy it too).
  • This is the method used to dispose of the bomb in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
  • The Killer Elite. The protagonists are pulled over by a policeman just as they find a bomb hidden under their car. They hand the bomb to the suddenly nervous officer and say they'll wait there while he throws it in San Francisco Bay. Of course they drive off the moment the policeman leaves, and there's a loud off-screen explosion implying that he never made it to the water.
  • Medusas Child: The protagonists end up extracting the pacemaker used by the titular atomic bomb to detect the presence of its maker's ex-wifenote , tape it to the bomb and throw the latter out of the cargo plane, into the ocean, with seconds to spare.
  • In Rush Hour, water does seem to dampen or otherwise be a safe place for the bomb. It still seems to explode with enough force to kill the man who went in with it though.
  • The Silence (2019). The cultists, in order to draw the monsters to the house where the protagonists live, send in a child with mobile phones strapped to her body which all start ringing at once, so everyone starts frantically ripping the phones off her and dunking them in a bucket of water.
  • In The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, the bad guy (in a shining example of Bond Villain Stupidity) locks the good guy and his girlfriend in a room with a bomb set to go off in three hours. The good guy opens up the pipes and deliberately floods the room in an effort to muffle the explosion. They almost drown, but in the end it works.
  • The World Is Not Enough: James Bond and Christmas Jones allow the water flooding into the sinking submarine to flood the reactor chamber before they escape: leaving the sub to explode relatively harmlessly at the bottom of the Bosphorus.
  • In xXx, we are told that the villain's bioweapon breaks down in deep water. So, in the climatic scene, with the first rocket about to launch and wipe out Prague, Xander takes the rocket, flips it upside down, shouts out a catchprase, and bails out. The upside down rocket pushes the entire sub deep into the river where everything explodes.

  • Gentleman Bastard: In the first book, the gas-releasing sculptures full of Wraithstone, alchemical fuses, and fire-oil planted by Capa Raza in the Duke's tower to Gentle everyone inside are rendered impotent this way before they can go off.
  • Played with in The Fourth Protocol when a cat burglar fills a bag with water which he tapes on top of a shaped explosive charge he's using to crack a safe. The idea being not to stop the bomb but to absorb the blast.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Discussed but averted in 24 season 2. A nuclear bomb with an impossible-to-stop countdown timer is loaded aboard a small aircraft, and they have to decide between disposing of it in the Pacific Ocean or in the Mojave Desert. However the massive problems they will still have to deal with from dunking it in the ocean (a tidal wave, radioactive fallout, etc.) make it a terrible choice. Ultimately they decide on the desert.
  • The A-Team, "Harder Than It Looks". After one of the GLA's members tells them the bomb is already armed and ticking, Hannibal and B.A. run to the water and throw the bomb into it. They just barely get the bomb into the water before it goes off.
  • In The Blacklist, the FBI was facing a dirty bomb rigged to explode from within a BMW sedan with diplomatic plates on. Special Agent Ressler drives it to the ocean since the local bomb squad doesn't have enough time to evacuate everyone and disarm it.
  • Chicago Fire: The squad planned on doing this with a tank of liquid hydrogen whose cooling system was damaged when the truck carrying it was involved in a car accident, the plan being to dump it in a nearby river. They don't make it that far, but do get as far as a patch of wasteground where nothing important will get damaged when the pressure build-up ruptures the tank.
  • Done quite realistically (in terms of effects) in the Season 1 finale of Designated Survivor, Brace for Impact: Artistic License Geography for Agent Wells' Race Against the Clock notwithstanding, when she resorts to driving the van full of explosives into the Potomac River to get rid of the Time Bomb before it goes off, it's clearly shown that she, just a few metres away from shore, is still somewhat affected by the pressure wave, just not quite as badly as she would have been if the van had been in the open air.
  • Played With in the TV series Chuck which has the episode "Chuck Versus The A Team" in which Chuck discovers that dropping a nuke from a submarine into the sea would disarm it, however the trope gets averted by the fact that the nearest body of sea water is miles away and the bomb will explode in just under a minute. What Chuck does instead is spray the bomb with apple juice from a juice box, the logic being that since the juice contains sodium, exposure to it would disarm the bomb, and it works.
  • The F.B.I.: In "The Problem of the Honorable Wife", a Demolitions Expert is spotted before he can plant his bomb in an army warehouse on the docks. As the timer on the bomb has already been activated, he tosses it into the harbour to get rid of it as he flees from the MPs. The bomb explodes harmlessly in the water and he is able to escape in the confusion. However, divers are able to collect enough of the bomb fragments to allow the FBI to construct a signature for the bomb-maker.
  • Played more realistically in the Haven episode "The Hand You're Dealt," in which a hot-headed teenager with a hair-trigger temperature makes things around him blow up when he's angry. He gets rebuffed at a backyard barbecue by a group of peers, and Duke and Nathan dunk the propane grill into the swimming pool hoping to avert disaster. They breathe a sigh of relief when nothing happens, only for the explosion to hit and spray water and flames everywhere.
  • Get Smart
    • Max hears ticking coming from the Chief's direction while they are eating lunch, so he grabs the Chief's hand (which was holding a roll), and thrusts into a nearby glass of water. Max pulls the roll apart to discover that there was no bomb, so he's perplexed as to where the ticking was coming from. The Chief points out that it was his watch, which doesn't work anymore.
    • The old Bomb in the BonBon Box trick.
  • MythBusters tested this in episode 81 "Grenades and Guts" by putting a grenade into a bucket of water. The bucket was annihilated in the explosion, but Adam and Jamie differed on the verdict of whether or not it would save one's life. (Adam pointed out that one of the dummies was injured in the blast; Jamie replied that it still was better than the three dummies injured in the control blast, so it had slowed the shrapnel, and unlike Jumping on a Grenade, it didn't require a Heroic Sacrifice.)
  • In The Munsters, when Herman received a package, he hears a ticking sound and thinks it's a bomb. After dunking it in water for a few minutes, he discovers he still hears the ticking. Grandpa then tells him that he was hearing the cuckoo clock.
  • Sledge Hammer!: When a bomb is delivered to Captain Trunk's office, Trunk panics and Hammer desperately tries to smash the window so as to throw it out. Dori Doreau tries to attract their attention, gives up, shrugs, and dunks the fuse in her cup of coffee. Hammer is unaware the emergency is over, and smashes the window anyway.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "Murder at Sea," the guys dispose of three bombs hidden throughout a cruise ship by tossing them overboard.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey. In "Black Pearl", the Nazis have developed a prototype atomic bomb (in 1938). Our heroes tow the bomb into a bottomless lagoon and sink it. It detonates to no apparent effect to the Nazi officials watching from a distant vessel, who deride the experiment as a failure.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The alchemist class from Pathfinder has bombs but the rules state they can't be used underwater, though they later received ways to create bombs that can be used in water.
  • Shadowrun supplement Lone Star. Since magic works in Shadowrun, Lone Star officers will sometimes order a water elemental to engulf a suspicious package. If it's actually a bomb, the water will render it harmless.

    Video Games 
  • In Death Stranding, a tactical nuclear bomb is disposed of by throwing it into a tar pit. Granted, an otherworldly and definitely not normal tar, but said nuclear bomb only makes a small bubble from underneath the tar when it explodes.
  • The Legend of Zelda, in most games dropping or throwing a bomb in water causes it to fizzle out and vanish without exploding.
  • In Minecraft, a safe way to dispose of creepers is to lure them into water. It won't stop them from exploding and hurting nearby mobs (including players), but solid blocks will be left intact.
    • This is the case for all explosions in Minecraft, but most kinds of explosions are not caused by things that follow you around, having instead to be deliberately placed in water.
  • In the end of [PROTOTYPE], Alex tries to save New-York from a nuke by dropping it into the ocean as far away as possible. It works, althrough he gets caught in the blast and is reduced to paste, but eventually rebuilds himself. The city is saved, though it should have been hit by resulting tsunami (still better than the nuclear explosion, however).
  • One of the mini-games in Sonic Shuffle involves teams of two racing to see who can toss their bomb into the lake before it explodes.
  • In Spelunky, there are red frogs that explode shortly after death, but can be turned into normal, non-explosive frogs by dropping them in the water.
  • In one level of the Edutainment Game Trans Con, you have to dispose of a bomb placed in the train yard by dropping it down a well.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Be a Clown", the Joker has a fancy looking Dynamite Candle on a cake for the Mayor's son's birthday party. While most of the guests don't suspect anything, Bruce realizes the danger and pushes the tray holding the cake into the swimming pool, where it harmlessly detonates in there.
  • Classic Disney Shorts: The Donald Duck Superstition Episode "Donald's Lucky Day" ends with Donald (acting as a courier who is unknowingly delivering a Time Bomb by two criminals) realizing what his package really was while trying to avoid a black cat. The bomb accidentally sparks on the cat's face, causing the feline to attack the bomb, and tossing it down into the water of a pier in its frenzy. The bomb explodes within the water and saves Donald (and whoever the bomb was supposed to be delivered to) from being blown up.
  • In an episode of DuckTales (1987), Doofus looks up in the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook how to disarm a Martian bomb inside of a rocket. The solution given is to douse it with water. Launchpad crashes in Scrooge's pool.
  • Goof Troop:
    • Subverted in episode "The Ungoofables", where the titular pair drop a time bomb into an aquarium, only for it to still keep going. Fortunately, Goofy's ancestor came up with the idea to take the aquarium into a freezer, turning the water into ice, which stops the bomb.
    • In "For Pete's Sake", Pete thinks that Goofy is out to kill him, and when Goofy gives him a box (which actually contains his new Swiss-army hedge-clipper), Pete hears ticking inside (the clock component of the hedge-clipper), thinks it's a bomb and throws it into his pool.
    Goofy: Hmm, funny place to put a hedge-clipper.
  • From Inspector Gadget:
    • In the episode "In Seine", Gadget is given a belt for his trenchcoat with a bomb built into it. Brain the dog pushes Gadget into the water, managing to remove his belt and dunk it into the water.
    • Another episode, "Art Heist", has Gadget get a glowing ball which is activated by Dr. Claw and turns incredibly hot. Brain gets it away from him yet again and throws the hot ball into a fountain. It explodes, sending up a big column of water.
    • In an episode in an amusement park, Gadget "wins" a plush panda containing a bomb, which he carries for most of the episode. Brain manages to snatch it from him and throw it into a body of water.
  • Subverted in the Johnny Bravo episode "Johnny Meets Farrah Fawcett" where Farrah's bodyguard screens the guests at little Suzy's birthday party. One gift is heard ticking, which causes the bodyguard to cry, "It's a bomb!" and immerse the gift in a bucket of water. The gift is revealed to be a wall clock, ruined by being waterlogged.
  • In the Walter Lantz short "Pig in a Pickle", Maw and Paw attempt to rescue their pig Milford from the Boomer Brothers by having Maw hide in a box pretending to be a ticking bomb. The plan works and the Boomers scatter, but Milford grabs the box and dumps it down the well.
  • Subverted in one Looney Tunes short, "Dough Ray Me-ow", when a parrot dunks a lit dynamite stick in water. He pulls it back out, all limp and soggy, but then the stick quickly straightens itself and the fuse relights.
  • Subverted in A Matter of Loaf and Death (which is a Shout-Out to the Batman: The Movie example). Gromit tries to throw a bomb into the water, only to see a group of cute little ducks. He ends up smothering it in bread dough instead.

    Real Life 
  • Both averted AND inverted with Greek Fire, a secret weapon of the Byzantine Empire. It was a combustible mixture whose composition has been lost to historynote . Existing accounts say that it burned on the water and, in some accounts, was actually ignited by contact with water!
  • Inverted with some kinds of metal like lithium, potassium and sodium which will burn in water.
  • Averted with Sea Mines, which makes sense as they are placed in the water. They don't even need to cause direct damage; the shockwaves and columns of water they create can be enough to damage a ship, sink smaller vessels, and kill sailors.
  • Averted with dynamite fishing. As the name implies, it relies on the explosive working underwater.
  • Tear gas grenades can be suppressed with water. When tear gas was used against protesters in Istanbul, Turkey, some protesters grabbed the canisters and stuffed them into jugs of water.
  • It's not actually a good idea to throw a bomb into water. The water can short-circuit the electronics and cause the device to detonate prematurely. Even if the device has no electronic components, the shock waves from an explosion are more destructive in water because water is far less compressible than air, although they dissipate much sooner because water is also much denser than air. That said, if you are not in the water, or have a large, open, resilient container full of water handy, its a viable option for absorbing and redirecting at least some of the blast.
  • "Classic" WW2-style depth charges played with this. On the one hand, they were obviously purpose-designed to work underwater. On the other, since they triggered at a pre-set depth and the surrounding ocean increasingly muffled the detonation the deeper they went, actually doing significant damage to a suitably deep-running submarine required either a lucky near or direct hit or else a patient ongoing bombardment hoping for a Death by a Thousand Cuts. And on the third hand, the amount of explosive needed for them to have even that much effect made them a potential hazard to the ships dropping them as well, especially if they were moving only slowly and/or the charges were set to explode at relatively shallow depths which would both set them off earlier and made it easier for the explosion to vent itself upwards.