How a Bizarre Nazi Military Machine Left a Lasting Mark on the Environment.


    The Germans release a colossal smoke screen in an effort to hide their battleship Tirpitz, moored in Kaa Fjord, Norway, as it's attacked by a Lancaster on Sept. 15, 1944. Credit: No. 5 Group RAF/IWM via Getty Images

    VIENNA —The Tirpitz was the Nazis' most imposing warship and the largest battleship ever built by a European navy. It should have been an easy target for bombers, but this massive vessel could hide in plain sight.

    Hitler's navy used a toxic artificial fog to conceal the ship when it was stationed in a Norwegian fjord. And, according to new research, this ephemeral smoke left a lasting mark on some of the living witnesses of World War II: the trees.

    "The effects of one military engagement during World War II are still evident in the forests of Norway, 70 years later," said Claudia Hartl, a tree-ring researcher at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

    Hartl, who presented her findings here during the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, didn't set out to study "war dendrochronology." Rather, she was taking core samples from pine trees around Kåfjord, near the northern edge of Scandinavia, to reconstruct a record of yearly temperatures for the past 2,000 years. (The trees can live for dozens or hundreds of years, and even older stumps can be found preserved in frigid lakes.)

    "Trees are limited by temperature there, so if you have a cold year, trees form a narrow ring, and if you have a warm year, then you have wide ring," Hartl explained.

    At a site near the fjord, Hartl and her colleagues found trees that didn't produce rings in 1945. This "exceptional stress response" didn't fit with the researchers' climate reconstructions, so they had to look for another explanation. And they learned that the Tirpitz had been stationed at Kåfjord, and was finally sunk by Allied bombs, in 1944.

    Nicknamed "The Lonely Queen of the North" by Norwegians and "The Beast" by Winston Churchill, the battleship had been moored at Kåfjord to threaten Allied ships bringing supplies to the Soviet Union. Part of the Nazis' defense was to release chlorosulfuric acid into the air, which attracts moisture and can create a smoke screen. Hartl said there is not much in historical records about the environmental impact of the fake fog. The substance is known to be corrosive, and the group of soldiers responsible for producing this smoke had to wear special protection suits.

    The researchers sampled pine trees from six sites near the fjord. Trees farther away from the Tirpitz's mooring were less affected by the fog. But at the site closest to the location of the battleship, 60 percent of the trees didn't produce a ring in 1945, and some of the trees didn't grow for several years after the war. Hartl's team thinks the trees lost their needles due to the fog, which harmed their ability to photosynthesize.

    War dendrochronology could join other nascent fields like "bombturbation" (the study of how bombs alter landscapes) as scientists begin to investigate the environmental impact of war.

    "What I think is very interesting is the human impact on ecosystems," Hartl told Live Science. "If you have a drought event, the trees also show a growth decline, but you can also see that these trees recover, and usually, it doesn't take longer than five years. But in northern Scandinavia, through this Second World War impact, it took the trees 12 years to recover. That's a really strong impact." (By Megan Gannon).



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    ISIS Accidentally Corroborates the Bible.


    By Aaron Earls


    When fighters for the terrorist organization ISIS destroyed numerous biblical archaeological sites in Iraq, they unknowingly unearthed evidence supporting Old Testament accounts.


    Previously archaeological teams stopped digging under certain sites in Iraq, such as the traditional tomb of Jonah the prophet, for fear of destroying them.


    When ISIS fighters took over Mosul and other Iraqi areas in 2014, they had no such qualms. They demolished the tomb of Jonah and dug tunnels looking for buried treasure or artifacts they could sell to finance their terrorist operations, according to the UK Telegraph.


    Once the Iraqi army rooted out ISIS earlier this year, archaeologists began checking the historic sites to see how much damage had been done. They made some startling discoveries.


    Tunnels dug by the terrorist group revealed a previously untouched Assyrian palace in the ancient city of Nineveh and several inscriptions that corroborate biblical accounts.


    An article in Iraq magazine, an archaeology journal published by Cambridge University, examines previously discovered artifacts from the site and those unearthed by ISIS.


    Inscriptions found in the old city of Nineveh give an order of Assyrian kings that matches perfectly with the biblical order.



      • Sargon II (Sargon in Scripture): Isaiah 20:1


      • Sennacherib: 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 36-37


      • Esarhaddon: 2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38


      • Ashurbanipal (also known as Asnappar, Osnapper or Asenaphar): Ezra 4:10



    Other inscriptions confirm biblical references to the city of Calah (Genesis 10:11-12) and the methodology of resettlement used by the Assyrians (Ezra 4:10).




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    The friends I’ve lost since moving abroad.


    Australian student and journalist Eden Gillespie has a lament that may sound familiar to those who, like her, have swapped countries: where have all my old friendships gone?


    Feeling blue: Eden on a recent trip to Morocco.

    In the weeks leading up to my move to Spain, there were handwritten letters, meaningful photo collages posted to Instagram and a buzz of kind words poured over coffees, lunches and dinners. My friends said they were jealous I’d be soaking up a Spanish summer, drinking tinto de verano and carousing around Europe while they’d be stuck in the same old routine.

    “Promise me you won’t get homesick,” my older sister said to me. “Everything will be exactly the same when you’re back. Nothing will have changed.” She’d know – at just 31 years old she’s traveled to 69 countries. Even after years working on cruise ships, she marks every day of leave with a spectacular vacation. As I write this, she’s packing for a trip to Peru.


    Despite my sister’s well-meaning advice, eight months on, I’ve grown tired of seeing my messages left on “read.” The onus is on me to maintain one-sided friendships that I’m not even sure are worth the effort.

    There’s currently a record number of expats working and studying abroad. I’m one of the estimated one million Australians caught up in this diaspora, living overseas. Buckled in for a 24-hour flight from Sydney, I had no idea of all the uncomfortable interactions that stretched out ahead. But I also believed that this settling-in period would be softened by friends back home taking an interest in how I was adjusting.

    It’s been frustrating, at times, not being able to express myself in Spanish, bumbling through conversations and being misunderstood. Adjusting to cultural differences as well as 3pm lunches and 10.30pm dinners characterized this grunt period. It was during this time that one of my closest friends ghosted me with a five-month streak of silence. A full-time university student living, at most, 500 meters from her classes, she says she was “too busy” to keep in touch. But that little green dot flashing next to her name sent a different message. That she was “active now,” and once out of sight, I was out of mind.


    “It’s hard to give every friend my fullest undivided attention when I need to give myself that attention too,” she messaged me. As an exchange student who’s also traveling and working, being busy isn’t a foreign concept for me. I wasn’t expecting daily contact, just a message once in a while. To this my friend replied she wasn’t cutting me out of her “care circle, just prioritizing it”.

    With working overseas now commonplace, stories like mine are frequent among expats. Erin Cook is an Australian journalist living in Jakarta. Like me, she’s had plenty of friendships break down after moving abroad.

    “I think it’s the losing touch, or at least being much less in touch, with my very closest friends that is genuinely upsetting,” Erin says.

    “When I first moved I tried to ‘test’ some friends but I just never heard from them again. So now I’m a lot more active in keeping up contact,” she says.

    Erin says that while she “definitely minds” being forgotten by some friends, without making the effort, communication often drops off completely. She’s forced to initiate conversations or risk drifting away from these friends.


    While it might seem a self-sabotaging act to quit messaging friends who don’t respond, I’ve been grateful for those who’ve sent the first message. One of my friends was planning her wedding while volunteering and finishing her final semester of university. Stretched for time, she’d often send through photos of her cats and even mailed me a wedding invite telling me I’d be “there in spirit.”

    Another friend who is on a student exchange in Canada has also kept me updated while half-freezing-to-death in -25ºC snow storms. He’s never been “too busy” to type out a few sentences.

    Sadly, in these past few months some former friends have transformed into strangers. It feels strange to think about bringing them back into the loop after a year without contact. When I fly back over Sydney Harbour in May it’ll look the same as it did when I left. But within me, so much has changed. I feel, despite appearances, unrecognizable.

    But one thing stays the same. A question I’ve contemplated many times over the past few months. How hard is it to make a damn phone call?



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