The Franken is an old German merchant ship. The ship was built back in 1937 at the Germaniawerft shipyard in the Baltic Sea port city of Kiel. This port was known for building merchant vessels, but it was more well-known as being a place where World War II U-boats were built. When World War II broke out across Europe in 1939, the Franken was not yet completed. It remained in the year unfinished until 1942. The vessel was moved Copenhagen.
The Franken was commissioned in March 1943, and it was put into service on the Baltic Sea where it was used as a tanker and supply ship. Later, it supported other vessels. It also carried fuel, minesweepers, patrol vessels, and torpedo boats. The boat was also on standby to tow disabled naval vessels to safety if necessary.
The Franken sailed from two ports in the Bay of Gdansk. One was called the Hel in Poland, which the Germans called Hela. They invaded the country on September 1, 1939, and over 3,000 soldiers defended the Hel Peninsula. It was one of the last remaining Nazi holdouts. They detonated torpedoes, and the blast turned the peninsula into an island.
After the country’s surrender, a few die-hard Nazis refused to give up. They fought for six more days before giving up. The Franken was sailed for another port which the Germans called Gotenhafen. In 1945, the Soviets entered German-held territory. The German Navy evacuated soldiers and civilians across the sea from Estonia. The Russian subs attacked the Nazi crafts in the area.
April 8, 1945
On April 8, 1945, a Russian airborne attack took place, which brought on the death of the Franken. It was bombed near the port, which sent the ship to the bottom of the Baltic Sea. This was not only catastrophic for the vessel, but also for the 48 sailors who were on board. They lost their lives when the ship sank. After the sinking of the Franken, there was another attack on May 7th. This was the end of the war in the Baltic Sea. During the battle, over 30 U-Boats, three German destroyers, and one Russian destroyer were all sunk.
The Franken’s Resting Place
Today, the Franken lies on the ocean floor between 160 and 240-feet below the surface of the Baltic. The hull was split in tow, and the bow separated from the rest of the vessel by around 2,600-feet. Also, the structure is far from stable.
In April 2018, Germany’s Baltic Sea Conservation Foundation agreed to fund an exploration of the Frankel. Two Polish vessels, the Litoral and the Imor, sailed out to the waters where the ship lies. The divers spent over 13-hours exploring the vessel and assessing the remains. What they found during the exploration created serious concern about what was on the ship. They found that the hull of the ship had collapsed, and the wreak was breaking apart. The steel was deteriorating, which made everyone wonder how long it would be until it completely broke. It is positioned in between two dunes, and the current goes between them. This means that there is water constantly washing over the ship. This will cause more and more damage.
The Salt Water
It is the salt water that is slowly eroding the outer hull. The storage tanks on the ship are also being corroded. Currently, the thickness of the metal is degrading at a rate of about 0.39-inches every 10 years. Since the ship has been sitting on the ocean floor since 1945, you should understand how serious the ship’s condition is.
This WWII shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea is a deadly ticking time bomb. This is because the ship was carrying over 800,000 gallons of oil. It was never drained from the ship because after the war; ownership went to the Polish government. For them, draining the ship of its cargo wasn’t profitable, so they left it on the bottom of the ocean. It the hull is compromised enough, the 800,000 gallons of oil will end up in the ocean, creating a severe environmental emergency.
If the oil spills from the ship, it will cause the most significant ecological disaster in the entire Baltic Sea region. All of the wildlife in the area will die. When the oil gets caught up in the current, it will move toward the beaches. This can be a significant pollution incident. This could cause the beaches to be closed for up to two years, which would create a major impact on tourism, which the area seriously depends on. Poland now owns the ship, and they aren’t required to remove the fuel. They’re only responsibility begins when the oil starts to leak. By then, it will be too late to prevent a severe ecological, environmental, and tourism catastrophe.