A patrol ship commandeered by Adolf Hitler’s forces and eventually hit and sunk in 1942 by RAF bombers during World War II is leaking toxic explosives and heavy metals to the bottom of the North Sea, a new study reveals. published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.
To analyze the biochemistry and geochemistry around the wreck, the researchers took samples from its steel hull and the surrounding sediment . They found the presence of heavy metals, such as nickel and copper, as well as arsenic and explosive compounds. There was also evidence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (coal, crude oil, gasoline). They found varying degrees of concentration of these toxic contaminants depending on the distance from the wreck.
“Although we don’t see these old wrecks, and many of us don’t know where they are, they may still be polluting our marine ecosystem. Indeed, their advanced age could increase environmental risk due to corrosion, which is opening up previously closed spaces. As such , its environmental impact is still evolving,” the authors say.
The V-1302 John Mahn has been contaminating the North Sea sediment ever since, something that researchers have warned is influencing marine microbiology and the geochemistry of the ocean floor where the ship rests.
Considering that there are thousands of similar shipwrecks in the North Sea alone, the cumulative impact on marine life is potentially huge, especially considering the ammunition and hazardous materials that are often stored on military vessels, as they are chock-full of old fuel, bombs, shells, rusty military equipment and multiple toxic waste.
“The general public is often quite interested in shipwrecks because of their historical value, but the potential environmental impact of these shipwrecks is often overlooked,” study lead author Josefien Van Landuyt said in a news release. , doctoral candidate at the University of Ghent in Belgium.
The history of the V-1302 John Mahn
The ship in question started out as a German fishing trawler before being converted to a patrol boat during the war. She was sunk off the Belgian coast in 1942 by the British Royal Air Force, as part of Operation Channel Dash . At this time, the ship was used to protect the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau as they were transported back to Germany from Brest, France. The RAF sent Swordfish planes to attack the German ships, but all were shot down, although the V-1302 John Mahn did not survive the attack and sank to the bottom of the sea .
Shipwrecks often contain hazardous substances that can harm the marine environment. However, information is lacking on the location of the wreck and the effect it might have on the environment. Researchers have found that these debris influence the marine microbiology around them and have a negative effect on the nearby environment.
“While shipwrecks can function as artificial reefs and have tremendous human storytelling value, we must not forget that they can be dangerous human-made objects that were unintentionally introduced into a natural environment,” Van Landuyt continued. “ Today, new wrecks are removed for exactly this reason.”
World War I and World War II shipwrecks are estimated to contain between 2.5 million and 20.4 million tons of petroleum products. Many of us do not know where they are and yet they are polluting our marine ecosystems.
The team wants to use the same techniques used on this ship on other shipwrecks in the area to find out how they are affecting the oceans today.
Referencia: 80 years later: Marine sediments still influenced by an old war ship
Josefien Van Landuyt, Kankana Kundu, Sven Van Haelst, Marijke Neyts, Koen Parmentier, Maarten De Rijcke and Nico Boon
Frontier in Marine Science, October 18, 2022
sec. Aquatic Microbiology