Mystery Surrounds Lost German Sea Data Station

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#1
Sea Monster attack? Why is it a prohibited area? Maybe the station wasn't just monitoring the environment.

A massive environmental monitoring station off Germany's Baltic coast has disappeared from the seabed, baffling police and researchers.

The seabed "observatory", worth about €300,000 (£270,000), weighed more than half a tonne. It could not have been dragged off by a storm, tide or large animal, German experts say. Divers only found a torn power cable at the site, 22m (72ft) down and 1.8km (1.2 miles) offshore.

It is a prohibited area, north of Kiel. No boats - not even local fishing boats - are allowed into the area, called Eckernförde Bay, about 70km (44 miles) south of the Danish border.

The missing observatory, installed in late 2016, stopped sending data on 21 August. It consisted of a power unit, connected by cable to the coast, and an instrument unit, which together weighed 770kg (1,700 pounds).

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49592330
 

Mikefule

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#2
(Additional tidbits from BBC news item, transplanted from a duplicate thread which is now merged into this one ...)

No boats - not even local fishing boats - are allowed into the area, called Eckernförde Bay, about 70km (44 miles) south of the Danish border. ...

The German instruments had been measuring seawater quality, including temperature and the levels of salt, oxygen, nutrients, chlorophyll and methane.

"The data we get from it is priceless," said Prof Hermann Bange, head of oceanographic research at Geomar, a scientific centre in Kiel.

Geomar has appealed for any witnesses who might have spotted suspicious activity in the area on 21 August. "Or maybe someone will find parts of the apparatus somewhere on the beach," he said, in a Geomar statement (in German).
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49592330
 
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Mikefule

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Oops, I missed this thread when I posted a new thread on this subject a few minutes ago Apologies.

There's not much mystery as to how it could be stolen. 22 metres is very easily accessible to a scuba diver on ordinary compressed air. Air bags with a volume of less than 800 litres would lift it: a standard lifting technique used by reasonably experienced sport divers. Once it is hanging just below the surface, it can easily be towed at a steady speed by a small boat.

The sea is full of exclusion zones for a variety of reasons including marine conservation, wind farms, the risk of trawlers snagging underwater equipment, gunnery practice, and so on. Apart from the military exclusion zones, most of them are poorly policed. The fact that this item was there would be sufficient grounds to exclude trawlers.

A night time raid by 4 to 6 people in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) with 4 of them being scuba divers with a couple of spare cylinders, some lifting bags and some cutting tools would easily have done the job without detection.

The sea is a big place, coastguard vessels are few and far between, and anyone who is determined to steal anything that is anchored, moored, or sitting on the seabed will usually find it fairly easy.
 

EnolaGaia

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Oops, I missed this thread when I posted a new thread on this subject a few minutes ago Apologies. ...
Previously unmentioned tidbits from the BBC news story transplanted here to merge the duplicate threads.
 

EnolaGaia

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#8
Here's a Google translation of Geomar's webpage text concerning the station's disappearance.
09/03/2019
Underwater observatory at Boknis Eck disappeared
Environmental sensors from GEOMAR and HZG were apparently forcibly removed

03.09.2019 / Kiel. In December 2016, the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel and the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht installed an observatory for environmental measurements on the seabed in a restricted area at the exit of Eckernförde Bay. Apparently, the two 550- and 220-pound racks on August 21 were removed with great force from their position. The researchers found only the shredded land connection cable. Now GEOMAR and HZG are hoping for clues to get the valuable devices back.

The name Boknis Eck has a good sound in marine research. Every month since 1957, environmental data such as temperature, salinity, nutrients, oxygen or chlorophyll have been collected at a specified position at the outlet of the Eckernförde Bay, allowing conclusions to be drawn about the state of the ecosystem of the south-western Baltic Sea. This makes Boknis Eck one of the oldest, still active marine science time series worldwide. In December 2016, the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel, in cooperation with the Helmholtz Center Geesthacht (HZG), also installed an underwater observatory in a restricted area that has been continuously measuring additional parameters such as flow velocities and methane concentrations on the seabed.

This observatory has now disappeared. "On August 21st at 8:15 pm it stopped the data transmission," reports Boknis Eck coordinator Prof. Dr. med. Hermann Bange from GEOMAR, "at first we thought of a transmission error". But a diving mission last week revealed a much more serious situation. "The devices were gone, the divers could not find them anymore," says Bange.

The Boknis Eck Observatory consists of two desk-sized racks. One is responsible for the power supply of the plant and connected by a cable to the coast. The other frame carries the actual sensors. "When the divers reached the bottom of the sea last week at the observatory's location, they found only the torn off land cable. It was completely shredded, "continues Professor Bange.

Since the racks each weigh around 520 and 220 kilograms and the cable connections are extremely massive, storms, currents or marine animals are the culprits.

"At first, we tried to find the devices with our own research and other diving applications. So far without success. Therefore, we would be very happy about hints. Maybe someone saw something on the morning of 21 August at the Sperrgebiet 'Hausgarten' near the Hökholz campsite. Or someone finds parts of the frames somewhere on the beach, "says Professor Bange. Meanwhile, the criminal police in Eckernförde is turned on.

The underwater knot at Boknis Eck in its last configuration cost around 300,000 euros. "However, the data that we collect is downright priceless. They help research to register changes in the Baltic Sea and possibly take countermeasures. Therefore, we will try to get the observatory back up and running as soon as possible, "emphasizes the Boknis-Eck coordinator.
SOURCE: https://www.geomar.de/service/kommu...serobservatorium-bei-boknis-eck-verschwunden/
 

EnolaGaia

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#13
I'm not sure a deliberate "heist" is the most probable cause ...

Check Geomar's own announcement (Google-translated text posted earlier) ...

The monitoring station wasn't inside Eckernförde Bay - it was positioned at the bay's mouth, where it meets the open Baltic Sea. This would almost certainly mean the station was subject to more potentially turbulent forces (tides, storm surges, currents) than would be the case inside the bay.

According to Geomar's announcement, the station was monitoring "flow velocity", among other things. This may or may not be taken to imply currents are an issue at that location.

Geomar didn't mention theft among the possible causes for the disappearance. The only thing insinuating a criminal act is their mention of having contacted the police.

It's summer, and there's a campground nearby. It's conceivable someone anchored their private boat offshore and snagged the cable and / or station with their anchor.

Judging from the photo (see above) of the station prior to its being lowered ... The only thing holding the apparatus on the sea floor are the spiked tips of its 4 legs and its own weight.
 

INT21

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#15
Mikefule,

A possible scenario, yes.

But you don't mention why someone would want to do it.

INT21.
 

Mikefule

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#16
Mikefule,

A possible scenario, yes.

But you don't mention why someone would want to do it.

INT21.
I spent 36 years as an insurance claims investigator and came to the conclusion that "because it's there" is enough reason for some thieves and vandals. Although most thefts had an obvious purpose (stealing valuable easily saleable items) many were "just devilment".

However, looking at this again, with the frayed and torn — rather than cut — cable, and the position at the mouth of the bay, then either an ill advised anchoring or a trawler net would seem possible.

Many years ago, I did a formal boat handling course in Plymouth Sound and the instructor himself dropped anchor where there was a clear sign warning of underwater cables. This is a big item, but not that heavy. 700Kg sounds like a lot, but that is its weight out of water. It would take less than 700 kg force to lift it from the sea bed because it displaces water which means that some buoyancy will offset the weight.
 
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#17
Trawler blamed, I reckon fish farmers did it.

The most likely explanation, Bange says, is a fishing trawler that accidentally caught a much heavier target than intended or whose anchor snagged on the station.

The waters around the station are a protected research area that is off-limits to all boats, but Bange says that is regularly ignored. “Fishing boats have transmitters that tell them they’ve entered the research area, but they just switch it off,” he says. Police are investigating and have asked campers at a nearby campground whether they noticed any boats in the area that morning.

Divers have searched in a 100-meter radius of where the station had been, Bange says. They did find tracks on the sea floor that suggest the station was dragged for some distance. “But the tracks end, and the observatory isn’t there,” Bange says. They also found a broken piece of one of the sensors. Further dives are planned this week, and GEOMAR plans to use ship-based sonar to scan for signs of the equipment.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/09/suspect-surfaces-mysterious-case-underwater-research-station-vanished
 
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