Bombs in the Sea | DocFilm | DW | 03.09.2019
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Bombs in the Sea

About 1.6 million tons of ammunition and chemical weapons lie in waters off Germany’s coasts. Left over from two world wars, this huge arsenal of sunken bombs, grenades, mines and torpedoes is becoming increasing unstable - and increasingly dangerous.

Watch video 42:36

Tourists, beachcombers and sunbathers may be unaware of the dangers lurking on the seabed, but experts are sounding the alarm. The documentary "Bombs in the Sea" looks at the highly complex problem of munitions and explosives on the seabed; the result of both military action and post-war dumping. After 1945 the allies set out to disarm Germany as quickly as possible needing to dispose of vast quantities of weapons and munitions. The easiest solution was to dump them at sea, which is where they still are, rusting and releasing their now often highly unstable contents. Explosives pose a threat to shipping and fishing. Traces of TNT and arsenic are increasingly being found in fish in areas where a lot of munitions lie submerged. Highly flammable phosphorus is washing up on beaches where it can be mistaken for amber. Urgent action is needed but the authorities are often reluctant to get involved. Finding and clearing contaminated sites could cost billions, says Uwe Wichert, a former naval officer who combs international archives to locate underwater dumps. "The amount of munitions and armaments that have been dumped or fallen into the sea during the war is enormous. We would have to search the seabed meter by meter before we could say we are a hundred percent sure we have found everything."