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Underwater observatory

A shredded cable was all that remained of an underwater observatory near the Baltic Sea in Germany, researchers said.

An underwater laboratory disappeared one night last month, and scientists have no idea what happened.

The Boknis Eck Observatory might've been "forcibly removed" from a bay in Germany, the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel said. And with it went precious data about the state of the Baltic Sea.

Data transmission from the underwater sensors suddenly cut out one night in August, GEOMAR said. When divers went to investigate at the observatory site, they found nothing but a shredded cable that once anchored it.

The observatory, planted in Kiel's Eckernförde Bay in 2016, consists of two "desk-sized" racks: One acts as a power source, tethered to the coast by a cable, and the other contains the sensors that transmit data back to shore. Both were missing when divers went to investigate, GEOMAR researcher and marine biogeochemist Herman Bange said in a statement.

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"The devices were gone," Bange said. "The divers could not find them anymore."

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The observatory costs around $330,000, but the data it collects is "priceless," he said. Its sensors measure the sea's salinity, concentrations of methane, oxygen and carbon dioxide and temperature.

Because they weigh more than 1,500 pounds combined, GEOMAR said it suspects a storm, current or sea creature is to blame for the uprooting.

But in case a human is responsible, they've enlisted Eckernförde police and the public to search for clues to its whereabouts. The research team's efforts so far have been futile, Bange said.

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