• By The Financial District

Scientist Solves Puzzle Of Strange Blocks Washing Up On Brazil Coast

About three years ago, some beachgoers in north-eastern Brazil made a curious discovery when they stumbled across a crate-like object washed up on the shore, at first even thinking it could be a treasure chest, Martina Farmbauer reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).


Photo Insert: Bezerra eventually came to the fascinating conclusion that the blocks originated from the Rio Grande, a German blockade runner which used to travel back and forth between South America and Hamburg.



Marine biologist Luis Bezerra of Ceara State University decided to investigate the phenomenon after stumbling across one of the blocks himself during a walk on a beach in northern Brazil in July 2019.


After some research, Bezerra noticed some of the blocks were covered in adult deep-sea barnacles, which meant the blocks had been underwater for a considerable amount of time as well as having traveled a large distance before washing up on the shore.



A further important clue was provided by an imprint found on the side of one of the rubber blocks, declaring it a product of French Indochina, the colonial term for modern-day Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, which hasn't been used since 1954. "This inscription showed us that the blocks must be old," says Bezerra.


Investigating with his colleagues, Bezerra eventually came to the fascinating conclusion that the blocks originated from the Rio Grande, a German blockade runner which used to travel back and forth between South America and Hamburg until it was intercepted by an allied ship in 1944 on its way home from Japan.


All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

The wreck now sits on the sea bed some 6,000 meters below the surface of the Atlantic, off the Brazilian coast near the city of Recife.


Using numerical simulations, Bezerra and his team were able to demonstrate that the winds and currents found near the wreck would, during the second half of the year, deposit any floating objects released from it onto a 1,600-kilometer-long stretch of coastline in north-eastern Brazil.


Entrepreneurship: Business woman smiling, working and reading from mobile phone In front of laptop in the financial district.

Bezerra's theory raises as many questions as it asks, however. Why, for example, did it take over 80 years for the remains of the Rio Grande to disgorge its strange cargo? Bezerra attributes this to the natural decomposition of the ship's hull, which until recently, he speculates, was sufficiently intact to retain the blocks.


Another possibility is that someone attempted to retrieve the ship’s cargo, which is believed to have included valuable cobalt, and in doing so released the blocks, he adds.


Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

The researcher and his team admit to their continued puzzlement at the constant stream of rubber blocks, however. Perhaps a new batch was released from the Rio Grande recently, Bezerra says, or they could even be coming from a different, as yet undiscovered shipwreck.



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