CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A stroll along the Texas coastline may provide you with sights of sargassum seaweed, but on rare occasions, beachgoers have stumbled upon cargo from a World War II-era shipwreck that continues to occasionally float ashore.
Visitors at Mustang Island State Park, outside of Corpus Christi, Texas, are the latest to discover one of the unassuming bales that were washed ashore by the currents of the Gulf of Mexico.
A park ranger took to the site’s social media to show off the discovery and to point out that there is always the chance of something more substantial than a seashell or a patch of seaweed on the sand.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, it is running off the assumption the bale is tied to similar discoveries over the years across the Gulf Coast as well as Central and South America.
Jace Tunnell, a reserve director at the University of Texas’s Marine Science Institute, has studied several of these sightings and previously tied occurrences to an old shipwreck off of Brazil.
"These are folded rubber mats that have been put together and then wrapped again with a big one. And so, these are actually thought to be from a 1944 ship," Tunnel previously stated in a video for the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve. "It was sunk in 1944 by the U.S. It was a German ship that was taking cargo across the world, and the U.S. sunk it in World War II, off the coast of Brazil."
According to historians, rubber, tin, copper and cobalt were all believed to be aboard the German ship identified as the SS Rio Grande when it tried running a blockade established by U.S. ships. The crew abandoned the vessel, but it was the bombardment by the USS Omaha and USS Jouett that ultimately doomed the cargo ship.
Researchers believe that as the ship has broken up over time, it has allowed bales weighing several hundred pounds to float to the ocean surface.
Hundreds of bundles have washed ashore, but if captured by the currents, the rubber can travel thousands of miles and be subject to global water current patterns.
In many cases, the packages are harmless to humans, but researchers said they can cause serious collision risks to vehicles on beaches.