The cargo was intended to feed the Nazi war machine, but it never made it to its destination.
Instead, nearly 80 years after the ship carrying it sank off the coast of Brazil, officials found the cargo washed up on a beach at Mustang Island State Park in Texas, a May 11 video shows.
The large, dark block is covered with barnacles, video shows. At a distance, it almost looks like it could be a long-forgotten chest filled with gold and jewels, but it’s actually something much more practical: rubber.
Stowed away inside a Nazi ship — alongside shipments of tin, copper and cobalt — were bales of rubber, Padre Island National Seashore said in a Facebook post.
The blockade-running Nazi vessel, dubbed the SS Rio Grande, was spotted by two American ships, a cruiser and a destroyer, near the coast of Brazil in 1944. Knowing that they had been caught, the ship’s crew attempted to scuttle the SS Rio Grande, then abandoned ship, according to the post.
The American vessel “fired on the Rio Grande until it sank, sending all its cargo to the ocean bottom where it was resting until recently,” officials said.
The 200-pound rubber bale recently found on Mustang Island isn’t the first to appear in Texas, the post said. They’ve been spotted periodically in Texas and Florida since at least 2020, with many more washing up in Brazil.
The wreckage of the SS Rio Grande kept them contained for years, but as the ship has continued to deteriorate over time, the bales have broken loose and floated to the surface, according to officials.
“From there, the bales stayed afloat in a series of northbound currents along the coast of South and Central America, around the Yucatan and then finally into the Gulf of Mexico,” the post said.
Rubber was vital to the war effort for both the Axis and Allies, and led to the development of synthetic rubber, as there wasn’t enough natural rubber to keep up with military production, according to the National World War 2 Museum.
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