A “priceless” environmental monitoring station has mysteriously disappeared from the seabed off Germany’s Baltic coast, sparking a police investigation.
The large observatory, worth around £270,000, is used to measure seawater quality, including levels of salt, methane and oxygen, as well as temperature.
The Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (Geomar), a government-funded institute in Kiel, said on Monday the station and another smaller unit – weighing a total of 770kg - had been removed “with great force” from a “restricted area” in Eckernförde Bay last month.
All that remained when divers visited the scene last week was a “shredded land connection cable”, which had provided power to the station.
After scientists stopped receiving data from the observatory on the evening of 21 August, project coordinator Dr Hermann Bange said researchers initially thought it was a “transmission error”.
But “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,” he said.
Due to the weight of the machines, Geomar said it was ruling out storms, currents or marine animals as possible culprits.
Police are investigating, but Dr Bange appealed for witnesses who may have seen anything from the coast. He also said there may be missing parts “somewhere on the beach”.
"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,” Dr Bange added.
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