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Whispering pines: Trees tell story of WWII battleship
April 11, 2018 by Marlowe Hood
© Phys.org 2003 - 2018, Science X network
Source; excerpts follow:

Though Hitler's unterseebootwaaf enjoyed great success against Allied shipping in WWII, he also wanted Nazi Germany to be a great "big-ships/big-guns" naval power to challenge his primary rival, Great Britain. Germany did produce some very advanced big warships but they simply couldn't compete with Britain's superior numbers and experience, PLUS the then-new concept of air superiority as an aspect of naval combat. Exemplar is the Bismarck; the Nazi battleship that notoriously obliterated the iconic British battlecruiser HMS Hood but was itself subsequently obliterated, all on its maiden wartime mission.

Since the era of big ship gun-to-gun battles was coming to an end (after centuries), and since Hitler was trying to project Nazi status with these expensive ships, he didn't want another Bismarck embarrassment with its sister-ship, the Tirpitz. So, he hid the Tirpitz in Norwegian fjords instead of deploying it for its intended purpose, interception of Atlantic convoys. Nazi pride was too fragile to risk losing this weapon by using it.

Britain, still smarting from the loss of Hood, and not satisfied with sinking the Bismarck, was intent on sinking the Tirpitz as well. So, it was arguably "clever" for Hitler to "use' the Tirpitz by hiding it; Britain devoted enormous resources to finding and destroying a ship that was essentially "parked", and Nazi big-ship status was intact. Of course, the Tirpitz was eventually sunk about six-months before Germany surrendered, but now we get to the point of the topic-article:


… "The story was in the tree rings," said Claudia Hartl, a researcher at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

The unlikely evidence of WWII battles was uncovered during the summer of 2016, when Hartl led students on a routine survey of forests around Kafjord, one of dozens of fjords along the northern coast of Norway.

"We got back to the lab and measured the tree rings, and saw that they were very narrow—in some cases nearly absent—for 1945," she told AFP.

The forests, in other words, had been hit by an environmental cataclysm.

"Of course we wondered, why is that?"…

In order to help camouflage its position, the Tirpitz produced "vast quantities of artificial fog" which (the researchers believe) had a lasting and measurable effect on nearby forests:


"The smoke drifted into the forests surrounding the fjord and damaged nearby pine and birch trees, leaving behind a distinctive and unusual 'fingerprint'," St. George told AFP…

Near where the ship once lay, more than 60 percent of the trees showed virtually no growth in 1945. All of them were affected to some degree.

Gaps in the forest where young trees sprouted up in the 1950s suggest the chemical fog caused arboreal fatalities too.

As far as four kilometres away, more than half the tree were severely affected, taking eight years on average to fully recover…

Because the "smoke":


The artificial fog that denuded the trees was likely made from chlorosulphuric acid which, when mixed with water, produces a thick, white vapour.

German ships [had] special teams equipped with gas masks to generate the smoky shroud.

I don't know if this research has been reviewed or replicated, and although I find the historic-military angle interesting (that's "the hook"), there are larger points to be made; notably: Wartime is a great catalyst for technological advancement but it's too short-sighted, too immediate goals-oriented. This is roughly equivalent to Iraqi forces setting fire to Kuwaiti oil fields as they evacuated, "scorched earth" ideology.

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Sunk by 617 Sq.

The famous Dambusters.
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