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first break volume 27, August 2009

special topic

Near Surface Geoscience

Detection of chemical munitions buried below the seabed using seismic and magnetic techniques
Tine Missiaen1* and Pascal Feller2 describe how combined seismic and magnetic investigations carried out at a chemical munitions dumpsite in the Baltic Sea provided a better assessment of the current status of the dumpsite and the possible ecological risks related to the dumped war material.

ea-dumped chemical weapons are the subject of growing concern. Chemical weapons have time and again showed up, for instance when retrieved in fishing nets or when washed ashore on beaches. Although the full extent of many dumping operations still remains unclear often due to a lack of documentation and loss or destruction of records in recent years an increasing number of dumpsites have been and are being documented. One of the major difficulties in managing the risk associated with chemical munition dumpsites is the uncertainty associated with the exact location and distribution of the munition. This is in part due to the lack of official records of the dumping operations, which often took place in chaotic circumstances right after the war. Besides, in many cases the dumped weapons are no longer exposed on the sea floor but have become buried, making fast tracking methods such as side-scan sonar or multibeam imaging of little use. In the framework of the EC-FP6 project MERCW Modelling of Environmental Risks related to sea-dumped Chemical Weapons, detailed geophysical imaging was done over a large chemical munition dumpsite in the southern Baltic. Very high resolution seismic and magnetic investigations were combined simultaneously to allow the detection of buried war material and to identify potential natural hazards. This should allow a better assessment of the possible risks related to this munition dumpsite.

Chemical munition dumpsite in the Bornholm Basin


After WW2 approximately 32,000 tons of chemical weapons, containing about 11,000 tons of toxic agents, were dumped east of the island of Bornholm in the southern Baltic in water depths ranging from 70 m to over 96 m. The dumped war material includes artillery shells, aircraft bombs, grenades, mines, containers, drums, and encasements (Helcom, 1993a). The main chemical agents were mustard gas, arsenic-containing compounds (such as Clark) and Adamsite.
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The munition was mainly cast overboard loose or packed in wooden crates (Helcom, 1993a). Official records mention the scuttling of one ship, filled with bombs and drums covered in concrete, in 1962 (Politz, 1994). In the late nineties a number of shipwrecks were identified in the dumpsite area but it is not known if these ships actually contain chemical weapons. ROV video images indicate that two of the wrecks were badly destroyed. One wreck was covered by trawling nets, and a large bomb was observed near its tail. Partly corroded artillery missiles were observed on the deck of a second wreck (Paka and Spridonov, 2001). The primary dumpsite area, a circle with a radius of three nautical miles, marks the central dumping location (Figure 1). It is very likely that the munition was spread over a much larger area during dumping, and therefore an extended dumpsite area was designated (Figure 1). After dumping, further spreading of the munitions almost certainly happened as a result of trawling. Indeed fishermen in the Bornholm Basin have repeatedly found bombs and shells in their nets, in some cases up to 50 km away from the dumpsite (Helcom, 1993b; Helcom, 2005). Geophysical investigations mainly focused on the primary dumpsite, with specific attention to the shipwreck sites (Figure 1). Acoustic sources with a distinct frequency range (sparker, boomer, parametric echosounder) were used to image both the uppermost sediments and the deeper layers. Simultaneously with the seismic data also deep-towed magnetic data were recorded in two small areas (Figure 1) using a line spacing of 10 m. The magnetic array (three magnetometers mounted on a triangularshaped frame) was towed 45 m above the sea bed in order to allow the detection of small objects. Detailed information on the data acquisition is given in Missiaen and Feller (2008).

Magnetic data
Vertical gradient magnetic maps of the two small areas surveyed in 2007 are shown in Figure 2. Green and red indicate positive magnetic anomalies; purple and blue indicate negative anoma-

Renard Centre of Marine Geology, Department of Soil Science, University of Gent, Krijgslaan 281 S8, B-9000 Gent, Belgium. G-Tec S.A., Rue Frumhy 34, B-4671 Blegny, Belgium. * Corresponding author, E-mail: tine.missiaen@ugent.be
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Figure 1 Overview map showing the location of the chemical munition dumpsite in the Bornholm Basin, southern Baltic Sea. The full green circle marks the primary dumpsite area, the striped green rectangle marks the extended dumpsite boundary. The recorded seismic data and the two small seismic-magnetic grids (SM1, SM2) are indicated. Four shipwrecks have been identified in the primary dumpsite.

lies. The dominance of positive anomalies is most likely a result of the northern latitude of the survey area in combination with important remnant magnetization. There is a marked difference between the two small areas. The northern area SM2 is marked by a large number of small to medium-sized anomalies (over 440), whereas the southern area SM1 shows only relatively few anomalies (just over 40), some of which are very strong. These strong anomalies are clearly related to shipwrecks. Although there is of course no absolute certainty about the origin of the anomalies, the survey location and historical disposal evidence strongly suggest that we are dealing with dumped war material. The small altitude of the magnetic frame above the sea bed and the high acquisition rate (sampling interval of 1520 cm for each sensor) allowed the identification of very small objects with a mass of 10 kg or less. Increasing the altitude of the magnetic array, even by a metre or two, would have resulted in a large number of objects remaining undetected.

Shipwrecks
The shipwrecks also stand out markedly on the parametric echosounder data. The wrecks are between 20 and 50 m long and 5 to 10 m wide. Average height above the sea floor (not including long protruding parts) is generally no more than 2 m.

Figure 3 shows two echosounder images across wrecks 1 and 2. Wreck 2 is partly covered by a thin layer of soft sediments, marked by blue-green reflections. The shallow reflector on the left may be related to a detached piece of the wreck. The strong diffractions observed above wreck 1 are likely caused by various protruding parts. Indeed previous video images have shown the presence of missiles on the deck. Small reflections in the water column are likely due to fish. No marked scour features were observed near the wrecks, which confirm the rather weak bottom currents in the Bornholm Basin. In 2008 a number of sediment and near bottom water samples were taken near the shipwrecks. The samples were analyzed for the presence of chemical warfare agents and their degradation products. Surprisingly enough the samples nearest to the shipwrecks did not necessarily show a high contamination (Sderstrm et al., 2008). Some of the highest concentrations of Arsenic-containing chemicals were measured further away from the shipwrecks. This suggests that the contamination is most likely not originating from the wrecks themselves but from the scattered warfare munitions.

Buried objects
The high resolution of the acoustic and magnetic data enabled the identification of a large number of objects. All of the objects

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Figure 2 Vertical magnetic gradient maps of the two small areas SM1 and SM2. Green and red indicate positive anomalies, purple and blue indicate negative anomalies (unit = nT/m). Whereas network SM2 is marked by numerous anomalies, network SM1 shows only relatively few anomalies. The two large anomalies observed in network SM1 are related to shipwrecks.

Figure 3 Parametric echosounder profiles (100 kHz) obtained over wrecks 1 and 2. Wreck 2 is partly covered by soft sediments (marked by blue-green colour). The reflection observed just below the sea bed on the left may be related to a detached wreck piece. The large hyperbolic diffractions above wreck 1 are probably due to protruding wreck parts. Vertical disturbances in the water column above wreck 2 are due to acoustic noise related to the equipment.

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are buried. Four large objects were found exposed on the sea floor in the near vicinity of shipwrecks, but most likely these are related to detached wreck parts. The acoustic data indicate a sediment cover of no more than 1.5 m, over 80% of the objects are buried less than 70 cm deep. The low sedimentation rates in the Bornholm Basin can probably not account for this sediment cover and most likely the latter is due to sinking of the objects into the soft muddy sediments. The size of the objects is in general less than 5 m, occasionally up to 10 m. Over 60 % of the objects have a size less than 2 m. In most cases the buried objects appear scattered, although some clusters of smaller objects are observed (Figure 4C). The sea floor above most of the larger objects is often deformed, showing pit-like structures (Figure 4B). This is probably caused by the impact of the dumped objects upon hitting the sea floor. The shallow pits are often (partly) filled with a layer of very soft or semi-liquid sediments. Minor sediment accumulation (maximum a few dm high) is regularly observed on the sea floor above the buried objects (Figure 4A). This could be linked to fluid mud accumulation deposited during a

Figure 4 Parametric echosounder profiles (100 kHz) showing the presence of different buried objects (marked by black arrows). A: Small buried object. The sea floor is marked by a local accumulation of soft sediments (blue/green colours). The object-like feature below on the left is an acoustic artefact caused by fish. B: Irregular seafloor morphology above large buried objects, most likely a result of the dumping impact. C: Small shallow object (left) and cluster of objects (ellipse).

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first break volume 27, August 2009

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period of calm conditions after a near bottom current event, but some relation to leaking toxic compounds cannot be entirely ruled out. There is generally a good correlation between the acoustic and magnetic data, especially for the larger objects ( 2 m). In a number of cases however there is no match between the two data sets. This disagreement is largely due to a local deviation between the seismic and magnetic track lines. Another possible reason is that objects of limited size (<< 1 m) may have been too small to allow acoustical detection whereas they may still be detected magnetically. On the whole more objects were identified on the acoustic data than on the magnetic data. This could be due to the extremely high resolution of the seismic data compared to the magnetic data. Comparing the acoustic data with the burial depth estimates obtained from the magnetic data revealed that the latter were generally over-estimated. This is probably due to the fact that most magnetic objects are only observed along one single profile. During data inversion the assumption is made that the object is located exactly below the trackline. An object at a few metres offset from the profile will yield a lower magnetic gradient than the same object located directly below the trackline, thus resulting in a greater burial depth. The only way to overcome this problem is to apply a closer line spacing (e.g., 5 m) but such precise line spacing is not easily achieved taking into account the long tow cable (the magnetic array was towed 200 m behind the ship). very close may show up as one single object. Also an advanced state of corrosion may have reduced the magnetic detectability of small objects. Indeed recent reports have indicated that most of the shells and bombs caught by fishermen near Bornholm are heavily corroded (Helcom 2005).

Conclusions
The results of this case study illustrate the benefit of complementary geophysical investigations for munition dumpsite research. Ultra-high resolution seismic profiling and concurrent magnetic acquisition at the Bornholm munition dumpsite have allowed the mapping of the exact location, distribution, and burial depth of the scattered war material in two small designated areas. Furthermore it has also allowed more insight into the diversity and type of dumped war material. Combined with detailed information on the internal geological structure, this will yield a better assessment of the current status of the dumpsite and the possible ecological risks related to the dumped war material.

Acknowledgements
This study was carried out in the framework of the EC-FP6 project MERCW (Modelling of environmental risks related to sea-dumped chemical weapons) (Contract Nr. INCO-CT2005013408). The captains and crews of Shelf and Fritz Reuter are gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks to Irina Popescu for her help in seismic data processing.

Object distribution and density


The high diversity, both in shape and in size, of the detected buried objects confirms the existing information that a wide variety of war material was dumped in Bornholm Basin. The large difference in object density between areas SM1 and SM2 may partly be explained by their location: SM2 is located in the centre of the primary dumpsite which was the prime dumping target, whereas SM1 is located a few kilometres towards the south near the dumpsite boundary. But even so, these results suggest that the distribution of dumped munition is most likely very heterogeneous, characterized by areas of high object density alternating with zones where the objects are rare. The total amount of war material dumped in the Bornholm Basin amounts to over 560,000 objects (Helcom 1993a). With the conservative assumption that 60% of the dumped war material is located within the primary dumpsite area, we obtain a mean object density of ~3300 objects/km2. The latter is much higher than the highest object density observed on the geophysical data. This disagreement between the measured (geophysical) object density and the estimated (historical) object density may be due to several reasons: (1) very small objects (such as shells and grenades) are possibly not detected whereas these objects make up a substantial part of the dumped material; (2) objects located in the middle between two tracklines will not easily be detected; and (3) objects that are cemented together or located

References
Helcom [1993a] Complex Analysis of the Hazards related to the captured German Chemical Weapons dumped in the Baltic Sea. Report submitted by Russia to the CHEMU Working Group, 2/2/1/Rev.1 (27 Sept. 1993) as amended 11 Oct. 1993. Helcom [1993b] Update of a report dated 7 May 1985 concerning environmental, health and safety aspects connected with the dumping of war gas ammunition in the waters around Denmark. Report to the Helsinki Commission from the HELCOM CHEMU Working Group, 14/10/1. Helcom [2005] Press release regarding chemical weapons dumps in the Baltic. Helsinki Commission, May 2, 2005. www.helcom.fi/press_office/ news_helcom/en_GB/ChemicalMunitions1115039886140/ Missiaen, T. and Feller, P. [2008] Very-high-resolution seismic and magnetic investigations of a chemical munition dumpsite in the Baltic Sea. Journal of Applied Geophysics, 65, 142-154. Paka, V. and Spridonov, M. [2001] Research of dumped chemical weapons made by R/V Professor Shtokman in the Gotland, Bornholm & Skagerrak dumpsites. In Missiaen, T. and Henriet, J.-P. (Eds) Chemical munition dump sites in coastal environments, 27-42. Politz, F. [1994]. Zeitbombe Ostsee - Das Giftgas-Erbe auf dem Meerersgrund. Chr. Links Verlag LinksDruck GmbH, Berlin, 134 pp (in German). Sderstrm, M., Vanninen, P., Kuitunen, M.-L. et al. [2008] Chemical analysis of sediment and near-bottom samples in the Bornholm dumpsite. MERCW project Deliverable D3.3.2, October 2008.

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