The following story is highly unusual but may be of some interest to the submarine cable community.  It certainly is a serious matter and a blow to what has been a very valuable scientific research project. 

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 submarine cable connecting the observatory to the shore. 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 have been ruled out as the culprits.

"At first, we tried to find the devices with our own research and other diving applications. So far without success. That's why we would be very happy about the 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 are on the case.

The underwater observatory 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.