Underwater observatory off German coast vanishes from restricted area

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Vanished - What happened to underwater observatory off German coast

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Scientists are pleading for information on the mysterious disappearance of an underwater observatory off the northern coast of Germany near Kiel that supplied critical data on the health of the environment in the Baltic Sea.

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The Boknis Eck monitoring station, installed in December 2016 and managed by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel and the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht, vanished without a trace last month leaving behind only a shredded cable that once held it in place on the seafloor, according to news reports.

"On August 21st at 8:15 pm it stopped the data transmission," observatory coordinator Dr. Hermann Bange, from GEOMAR said in a news release.

Researchers first thought a transmission error was responsible and sent dive teams to investigate, Bange said.

“The devices were gone, the divers could not find them anymore,” he said.

The $330,000 observatory, located just over a mile offshore and 72 feet underwater, was made of two desk-sized racks, weighing 550 pounds and 220 pounds, respectively, Gizmodo reported, and included a frame that held the power supply with a heavy cable that connected the lab to the coast.

The racks were both "removed with great force from their position," GEOMAR's statement said.

The BBC reported that the monitoring station was in a restricted area where no boats were allowed and that a person or group is most likely responsible.

Scientists considered whether a powerful storm, strong currents or even marine life could have had anything to do with the disappearance Gizmodo reported, but ruled those factors out because of the weight of the station.

The station monitored environmental conditions in the sea, including temperature, salinity, nutrients, oxygen, currents and methane concentrations.

German police were notified about the disappearance and are investigating.

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