Several parts of the world are in drought – revealing hidden treasures in dry riverbeds

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Aussies are no strangers to drought, but we’re not the only ones who struggle with long, harsh spells of little rain.

Months of drought and record high temperatures, believed by scientists to be a consequence of climate change, have hampered river traffic on vital arteries in other parts of Europe, including Germany, Italy and France .

And in the United States, researchers fear that some states are facing the worst drought conditions in 12 centuries.

But these extreme conditions also revealed wonderful hidden treasures and pieces of history, like a World War II bomb!

Here is a selection of some discoveries.

Nazi ships on the Danube

The mighty Danube River has been reduced to one of its lowest levels in nearly a century, exposing the carcasses of dozens of explosive-laden German warships sunk during World War II.

The ships were among hundreds scuttled along the Danube by Nazi Germany’s Black Sea Fleet.(Reuters: Fedja Grulovic)

The ships were among hundreds scuttled along the Danube by Nazi Germany’s Black Sea Fleet in 1944 as they retreated from advancing Soviet forces and still impede river traffic during low water .

However, this year’s drought has exposed more than 20 carcasses on a stretch of the Danube near Prahovo in eastern Serbia, and many of them still contain tons of ammunition and explosives and pose a danger for browsing.

Exposed wreck of a German WWII warship in the Danube
Months of drought have slowed river traffic on vital arteries in other parts of Europe.(Reuters: Fedja Grulovic)

Texas Dinosaur Tracks

A drought in Texas has dried up a river running through Dinosaur Valley State Park, exposing traces of giant reptiles that lived around 113 million years ago.

Dinosaur tracks lay at the bottom of a dry river
Traces of an Acrocanthosaurus that would have lived around 113 million years ago.(Dinosaur Valley State Park / AFP)

Most of the tracks were made by Acrocanthosaurus, which weighed nearly seven tons as an adult and was 4.5 meters tall.

Another dinosaur, Sauroposeidon, also left its mark in the park. He was over 18 meters tall and weighed 44 tons when fully grown.

Dinosaur tracks are revealed in a dry riverbed
The state park was once on the edge of an ancient ocean.(Dinosaur Valley State Park / AFP)

The state park – located in an inland area southwest of the city of Dallas – was once on the edge of an ancient ocean.

A Buddhist statue in the Yangtze

China issued its first national drought alert of the year last week and Lake Poyang, one of the Yangtze River’s most significant flood basins, has now shrunk to a quarter of its normal size. for this time of year, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The drought has exposed a once submerged Buddhist statue atop the reef on Foyeliang Island in the Yangtze.

A Buddhist statue sits atop an island reef in the Yangtze River
A once submerged Buddhist statue stands atop the reef of Foyeliang Island in the Yangtze River.(Reuters: Thomas Pierre)

The island is in the southwest region of Chongqing, where rainfall has dropped 60 percent this year from the seasonal normal.

A once submerged Buddhist statue stands atop the reef of Foyeliang Island in the Yangtze River
The once submerged statue appeared due to a drought in Chongqing.(Reuters: Thomas Suen)

“Hunger Stones” on the Rhine

As one of Europe’s great active rivers, the Rhine is usually filled with ships transporting raw materials and products to and from power stations and factories along the waterway.

However, low water levels across Germany are seeing ‘hunger stones’ – locally known as Hungerstein – reappear on riverbeds.

    A large boulder with an unfinished sculpture of 'MGM 2022' sits on a rocky river.  River visible in background
Throughout history, stones have served as a warning of famine. (Reuters: Andreas Kranz)

Traditionally found in central Europe, the stones are engraved to commemorate famine and other hardships, and act as low water warnings for future generations.

Aerial view of a lakkebed with several large rectangular stones.  The stones each have different years engraved into them
Some of the stones discovered date from 1947. (Reuters: Maximilian Schwarz)

A Bronze Age town at the Mosul Dam

An extreme drought has severely depleted water levels at the Mosul Dam in Iraq, revealing the ruins of a 3,400-year-old lost city.

Aerial view of the Kemune excavations with partially submerged Bronze Age architecture in a lake in Iraq.
An aerial view of the Kemune excavations.(Provided: Universities of Friborg and Tübingen, KAO)

The Bronze Age city, complete with a palace and a sprawling fort, is located at a site known as Kemune in the Kurdistan region.

German and Kurdish archaeologists rushed to excavate the site before the dam was filled.

The excavated buildings are measured and documented archaeologically from the Mosul Dam in Iraq.
The excavated buildings are measured and documented archaeologically.(Provided: Universities of Friborg and Tübingen, KAO)
Pottery at the Kemune site at the Mosul Dam, Iraq.
Pottery at the Kemune site at the Mosul Dam.(Provided: Universities of Friborg and Tübingen, KAO)

World War II bomb in an Italian river

Military experts have defused and carried out a controlled explosion of a 450-kilogram World War II bomb, which had previously been submerged in the now drought-stricken Po River in northern Italy.

According to the military, around 3,000 people living nearby had to be evacuated before the clearance operation.

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The Italian army detonates a World War II bomb found in a river.

Deminers removed the fuse from the American-made device, which the military said contained 240kg of explosives, before it was transported to a quarry 45 kilometers away for destruction.

A World War II bomb was safely detonated in Italy
A World War II bomb discovered by drought in the Po River in Italy explodes.(Reuters: Italian Army)

‘Spanish Stonehenge’ in a dam

Spain is facing its worst drought on record, with research suggesting the Iberian Peninsula could be the driest in over 1,000 years.

This led to the emergence of a prehistoric stone circle dubbed the “Spanish Stonehenge”, which has only been fully visible on four occasions since 1963.

Dozens of rounded stones rise from a rocky lake bed against a sunset horizon.
The Guadalperal Dolmen, nicknamed the Spanish Stonehenge, dates back to 5000 BC.(Reuters: Susana Vera )

Officially known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, the formation is located in the central province of Caceres and is believed to date back to 5000 BC.

An aerial view of dozens of rounded stones rising from a dry lake bed.
Little is known about who erected the stones, which were rediscovered in 1926. (Reuters: Susana Vera)

Human remains in Lake Mead

At least five discoveries of human remains have been made in Arizona’s Lake Mead, a reservoir off the Hoover Dam that has dropped to about a quarter of its capacity, in recent months.

a dry lake with mostly brown dirt around a small section of blue-brown water, the sky above the landscape looks hazy
NASA says the last time Lake Mead in the United States approached full capacity was in 1999.(Reuters: Caitlin Ochs)

Boaters found the first of the bodies in a barrel in May this year after the water level dropped so low the lake bottom was exposed.

Police believe the person died of a gunshot wound in the 1970s to 1980s, based on clothing and other evidence, and are investigating a homicide.

More skeletal remains have since been found in the area – some have yet to be identified.

a wide shot of an information board with a dry lake in the background
Lake Mead was hovering around 27% capacity in July.(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Lake Mead provides water to millions of people in Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico, including large swaths of farmland, and US officials say some areas will experience cuts in their water supply as the lake continues to shrink.

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