Science & Technology

Sunken WWII Ship Reappears in Italian River Amid Drought

A 55-meter barge that was sunk by American bombing in 1944 has re-emerged  from the River Po in Gualtieri, Italy, due to severe drought.

A 55-meter barge that was sunk by American bombing in 1944 has re-emerged from the River Po in Gualtieri, Italy, due to severe drought.
Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP (Getty Images)

Unusually low water levels in Italy’s largest river have revealed a sunken World War II barge.

The ship is jutting out of the water near the northern village of Gualtieri. It’s called the Zibello, and it was used to transport wood during the Second World War. It sank into the river in 1943, the Associated Press reported. When water levels have been low along the Po in the past, the bow of the ship was usually the only visible part, the Guardian reported. But this year, much of the body is fully out of the water.

“To see the vessel so exposed in March, when it was essentially still winter, was very dramatic,” Alessio Bonin, a local amateur photographer told the Guardian. “I’ve never seen such a drought at this time of year—our main worry used to be our river flooding, now we worry about it disappearing.”

Bonin took drone photos of the barge in March, when its body was becoming more prominent. The reveal comes after the Po has gone without rain for more than 110 days, according to the AP. This river feeds water into the country’s agricultural industry and also into other waterways that go to major cities like Venice, the AP reported. In some areas, the river’s levels are so low, people can walk along the dried waterbed.

The Alps mountain range in Northern Italy, whose snowpack usually feeds into large bodies of water like the Po, is becoming greener over time, with less snow cover. Other large rivers and reservoirs are also affected by changing climate. A recent study found that, from 2018 to 2020, Europe experienced its worst drought in more than 200 years.

Droughts around the world are revealing old sites and even ancient artifacts. Over in Spain, a dry winter lowered a reservoir’s water levels so much that the previously flooded village of Aceredo emerged again after several decades. Visitors were able to walk through the ghost town’s streets. Low water levels have also revealed a Bronze Age city along the Tigris River in Iraq.

In the American West, a drought uncovered part of a 8,000-year-old skull along the Minnesota River. Less ancient reveals have included a body in a barrel that was found near Nevada’s Lake Mead. About a week after that grisly discovery, more human remains were found at the lake. The prevalence of drought is unfortunately on the rise, which means that we may see more sunken secrets revealed.

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