Scientists have discovered that a Nazi-built boat, which was sunk by Royal Air Force during World War II, is still polluting ocean floor.
The V-1302 John Mahn, one of many thousands of wrecked ship and aircraft at the North Sea bottom, is home to millions of tonnes worth of bombs, shells and other munitions from both world wars.
Mahn was once a German fishing boat, but Hitler ordered it to be requisitioned for use as a patrolboat.
It was submerged by the British off the Belgian coastline during the Channel Dash 1942, when German battleships in need of repairs were escorted to the port of Brest in northern France on their way back home.
The Mahn and other battleships were sinking, but far more important battleships managed to make it all the way to Germany.
Winston Churchill ordered an investigation because this was considered embarrassing for British forces.
Mahn’s death eighty years later is still costly for the microbiology of the ocean floor, where it rests. It leaks dangerous pollutants like explosives and metals.
Ghent University’s North Sea Wrecks Project saw the discovery by a research team. It was meant to show how the remnants from world wars have affected the natural world.
“We shouldn’t forget that shipwrecks may be dangerous”
Although shipwrecks are a topic of great public interest due to their historical significance, scientists say that they can have a significant environmental impact.
Mahn was the victim of a sedimentary incident. The vessel had a steel hull.
There were varying levels of toxic pollutants found in different parts of the world, including arsenic and explosives as well as chemicals that are naturally found in crude oil, coal and gas.
Josefien Van Landuyt, researcher, stated: “While wrecks may function as artificial reefs, and can have immense human story-telling potential, we must not forget that they are dangerous, man-made objects that were accidentally introduced into a natural setting.”
“Today, shipwrecks that are new are removed precisely for this reason.”
Ms Van Landuyt cautioned that the Frontiers in Marine Science findings were only the tip of an iceberg.
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Estimates suggest that between 2.5 million to 20.4 million tonnes of petroleum products are contained in shipwrecks resulting from world wars.
Ms Van Landuyt added, “We don’t see these old wrecks and many of us don’t know where they might be, but they could still be polluting the marine ecosystem.”
“In fact their advancing age may increase the environmental risk from corrosion, which is opening up previously closed spaces.” Their environmental impact continues to evolve.