Swedish navy locates German WWII mines

The Swedish Navy has uncovered a ten-kilometre band of German World War II mines at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

The naval vessel HMS Fårösund located a mine the navy believes is part of the elusive Wartburg mine barrier. The mine was found at a depth of 50 metres off the south east coast of the island of Öland last week while the navy was out preparing for the multinational Baltic Operation (BALTOPS) exercise.

The Wartburg mine barrier runs from the coast of Öland to Lithuania and came into being when the German minelayers Preussen, Grille, Skagerrak and Versailles put down an estimated 1,150 naval mines and 1,800 anti sweep mines in the nightly operations running from June 18th to 21st 1941.

“One mine was found last week by HMS Fårösund and just this morning the Danish vessel Makrelen found two more. We also found a lot of mine anchors which formed a track. This strengthened our belief that the mine we found belongs to the Wartburg barrier,” Jimmie Adamsson, spokesman for the 3rd Naval Warfare Flotilla, told The Local.

Adamsson said the Swedes had been been searching for the Wartburg mines on and off for the last couple of years.

Despite suffering from surface corrosion, the explosives and detonators contained within the mines may remain intact and sensitive to contact, the Swedish Navy said in a statement.

“The mines don’t pose any major threat on the seabed. But they could become dangerous in connection with underwater work, cable laying, trawling or diving,” said Adamsson.

With the BALTOPS exercise coming to an end on Wednesday, it is unlikely that any more mines will be found as part of the current operation.

“But this is something we can maybe work on with the Baltic States as part of our cooperation with the Baltic Ordnance Safety Board (BOSB),” said Adamsson.

An estimated 165,000 mines were laid in the Baltic Sea east of Sweden and the Straits of Kattegatt och Skagerrak to the west over the course of the two world wars.

“We try to countermine as much as possible but it’s a huge job,” said Adamsson.

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