Scientists warn of “poisonous” shipwrecks in World War II: “It’s only a matter of time” | Science | news
WW2: Expert on the risk of shipwreck on the bottom of the Baltic Sea
Thousands upon thousands of ships were sunk or destroyed during World War II. Marine archaeologists discover new wrecks every day and find tons of fascinating artifacts along the way. The German tanker Franken was bombed by Russian fighter planes on April 8, 1945.
It was supposed to be supplying two German naval forces when a torpedo sent the ship to the bottom of the Gdańsk Bay near Poland.
It had an enormous 1.5 million liters of fuel on board.
More than 100 wrecks have been classified as “high priority” due to their fuel content by Fundacja MARE, a Polish organization that aims to protect marine ecosystems in the Baltic Sea.
The franc is a particular concern.
READ MORE: Tsunami warning for London: WW2 shipwreck is a “ticking time bomb”
The shipwreck in Franconia poses a potentially catastrophic risk to the environment.
The Franken was sunk by Soviet fighter planes towards the end of World War II.
More than 70 years later, a team investigating the wreck found it was seriously collapsing, releasing the oil in its hold.
This would devastate the environment and the economy of the entire region.
Dr. Benedykt Hac of the Gdanker Maritime Institute told the Baltic Daily three years ago: “The progressive corrosion means that the steel covering the hull and interior of the ship is thinning and the likelihood is that the wreck will collapse under its own weight “Increasingly.”
Research conducted in 2018 concluded that it was “only a matter of time” before the ship leaked oil into the Bay of Gdańsk and the wider Baltic Sea.
The Swiss franc contains an enormous 1.5 million liters of fuel.
An oil leak could devastate the local environment.
The Baltic Sea borders nine countries, including Russia, Germany, Poland and Sweden.
The research also found that the franc is already having a negative impact on the surrounding area.
Dr. Hac added: “Land surveys in the immediate vicinity of the tanker have shown that the ecosystem has already been devastated and the standards for some toxic and carcinogenic substances have been exceeded hundreds of times.”
The fuel inside is believed to be a mix of heavy and light oils – each type having its own devastating effects.
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The surrounding wildlife could be completely wiped out.
Olga Sarna, chairwoman of the marine protection group MARE Foundation, said at the time: “We are talking about possibly the greatest ecological catastrophe of all time in the entire Baltic Sea region.
“All wildlife in this area could potentially die if the spill happened. The economic impact will also be enormous for the entire region. “
Ms. Sarna explained the different effects that the different types of oil could have.
She said, “Heavy fuel is the type of oil that just goes to the bottom and then spreads across the bottom of the bay and kills everything in the area.”
Olga Sarna warned of the enormous dangers to which the area was exposed.
Ms. Sarna referred to a similar shipwreck from WWII.
The oil on board, which was much, much less than that on board the Franconia, was spread over 400,000 square meters.
“In this area we found a 100 percent mortality rate for all organisms,” she said.
But that’s not the worst: “If it’s light oil, it’s more dangerous because it goes to the surface and then the ocean currents can move it towards the beaches.
“And since the currents in the Gdansk area usually go in the direction of the beaches, we are talking about 80 kilometers of beaches that can be hit. When the oil gets there, the local population will encompass protected seal and bird colonies so the environmental impact is really dramatic.
“And it will also have an impact on tourism and industry in the region. We have to close the entire area for at least a couple of years. “
Ms. Sarna emphasized that it is now more about the “when” than the “whether”.
After the ship was discovered, environmentalists launched a campaign to secure funding for an operation to drain the oil from the wreck. It is estimated that this would cost up to £ 20 million.
International teams of scientists are now investigating how the oil can be recovered without causing an ecological disaster, the Polish news site The First News reported earlier this year.