Is Russia Responsible for the Disappearance of GEOMAR’s Boknis Eck Observatory in the Baltic Sea?

  • Germany is investigating the disappearance of the observatory.
  • Russia is purposely trying to increase tensions with NATO over the Baltic Sea region.
  • Russia is committed to sustaining a large fleet of big, long-range submarines.

A mystery surrounds the recent disappearance of GEOMAR’s Boknis Eck Observatory and research station (weighing 1,630 lbs) from the bottom of the Baltic Sea. By all indications, the station has been stolen. The primary function of the station, whose location was undisclosed, was to collect environmental data from the ocean floor and transmit information to the researchers.

The GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (formerly the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences) is a research institute in Kiel, Germany. It was formed in 2004 by merging the Institute of Marine Science with the Research Center for Marine Geosciences.  According to GEOMAR’s website:

“GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel is a world-wide leading institute of marine research. We investigate chemical, physical, biological and geological processes of the seafloor, oceans and ocean margins and their interactions with the atmosphere. We also bridge the gap between basic and applied science in several areas. With this broad spectrum of research initiatives GEOMAR is globally unique.”

GEOMAR is a foundation under public law jointly funded by the German federal government (90%) and the state of Schleswig-Holstein (10%). GEOMAR has a staff of approximately 1,000 (2018) individuals and an annual budget of ~80 million euros.

The missing station had been in a restricted water area 1.2 miles off the coast of Kiel in northern Germany, not far from the Danish border, as per Der Spiegel. The exact location was never made public. The Boknis Eck Observatory stopped transmitting data on August 21, 2019.

The observatory started to operate in 2016 and provided very important data about water temperature, nutrients, salinity, the speed of water flow, and concentrations of chlorophyll and methane.

GEOMAR originally conducted their own research on the observatory disappearance without success. Consequently, they contacted the German police for further investigation.

Image Source: Geomar.de

Interestingly, Russia commenced Operation Okeanskiy Shchit (“Ocean Shield”) during August 2019 naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, under the direction of the commander-in-chief of the Russian Military-Maritime Fleet (Voyenno-Morskoy Flot—VMF) Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov. Submarine deployments in the area and the following exercises could have been used as a cover for other activities during those weeks in the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s latest submarine “Losharik” tragedy occurred in July 2019. There was a sighting of a mystery submarine last year in the area. Are these incidents connected?

The Russian navy is all but abandoning production of new aircraft carriers and cruisers. It has committed to sustaining a large fleet of big, long-range submarines according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency Report: “Russia’s Military Power.” Additionally, a recent Atlantic Counsel Report stated, “Northern Europe, and in particular the Baltic Sea region, has become a critical friction zone between NATO and an assertive Russia that seeks to alter European security in its favor by fracturing NATO and dislodging the United States as the ultimate guarantor of peace and security in the region.” America’s senior naval officer in Europe, Adm. James Foggo, said that he was “concerned” about some of Russia’s newer and more advanced fleet of submarines.

All the signs point to Russia’s possible involvement in the disappearance of the observatory. Was it for the sole purpose of disrupting the West, or did they want to prevent the station from detecting something?

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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