Rising Seas Expose WWII Skeletons

Their South Pacific paradise is disappearing under the waves.
B. McPherson

As Europe is recognizing the 70th year since D-Day, the successful establishment of a beachhead on France’s beaches by Allied Forces, a macabre scene is playing out in the Pacific Ocean. Rising sea levels in the South Pacific have washed away soil covering graves of 26 soldiers believed to be Japanese. The Marshall Islands were the scene of fierce fighting in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. Experts will attempt to confirm and return the remains to their country of origin.

Sea level increases have been more pronounced in the tropical areas, and the S. Pacific islands have been hard hit in some areas. An island in the Marshalls, is now underwater. Some of the S. Pacific islands are based on coral atolls and have very little elevation. Others, more fortunate, are the peaks of volcanoes and have higher ground. The Marshalls have an average elevation of only 2 metres(7ft).

Sea levels are creeping up generally around the world. While some areas are still rebounding from the last ice-age, others are getting the full brunt of the changes. Ocean levels increase because more water is in the seas as more ice melts. Also as the Earth warms, the water expands, taking up more room. Salt water flooding of low lying areas can also occur when earthquakes jostle the land and storm surges may cause higher than normal tidal action.

Even when the ocean retreats, damage is done and people may be forced to move.
Tony de Brum, minister of foreign affairs, Marshall Islands is quoted by Bloomberg News.

“The atoll ecosystem is very fragile so that if you have a severe inundation of salt, if it doesn’t rain every day for a year, recovery is probably doubtful,” he said. Then “the island loses all its vegetation and becomes very susceptible to wind and tides and more winds and the next thing you know it’s not there anymore.”

South Pacific islands are subject to spring tides that are higher than normal. Dubbed King Tides, they regularly wash over areas formerly safe from inundation. A state of emergency has been called in the Marshall Islands’ capital city of Majuro after king tides rolled into the streets, displacing about 1000 people.
To see what the king tides are doing in the Marshalls, check out the You Tube footage.


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