Mysterious World War II Plane Propeller Found in Scottish Peat Bog

The object likely broke off a doomed plane during a crash on the isle of Arran

Propeller Blade and Sacks
The propeller blade was discovered wrapped in a potato sack in Coire a’Bhradain on the isle of Arran in Scotland. National Trust for Scotland

During the recent ecological restoration of a Scottish island’s spongy peatland, an excavator’s bucket hit something unexpectedly solid: an old propeller blade, once attached to a military plane that crashed during World War II.

The blade was buried in the highlands of Coire a’Bhradain on the isle of Arran, located off Scotland’s west coast. According to a statement from the National Trust for Scotland, multiple aircraft crashed on the island during the war.

Still, the newly discovered propeller blade’s origins remain mysterious, as it was unearthed far from any known crash sites. Researchers are also puzzled by its unique packaging.

In Situ
The blade was tied up in rope, suggesting someone may have been moving it from the crash site. National Trust for Scotland

“On closer inspection, we found it had been wrapped and tied in a potato sack, which added further intrigue to the find that lay some distance from the spread of the wreckage of the former crash sites,” says Derek Alexander, head of archaeology for the trust, in the statement. He speculates that the artifact detached from one of two doomed planes that crashed in the area: a B-17 Flying Fortress or a B-24 Liberator, both of which used a propeller blade like the one found in the peat.

About a decade ago, researcher Terence Christian conducted an archaeological survey of the region, mapping several of its crash sites. Based on his work, researchers know the blade is located closest to debris from the B-24, which crashed in August 1943, killing all onboard, reports BBC News. Its remains make up one of six World War II-era plane crash sites that have been discovered on National Trust-owned land in Arran.

Contractor Stewart Lambie uses an excavator for peatland restoration work in Coire a’Bhradain. National Trust for Scotland

In the 1940s, Arran’s elevation—topping off at 2,867 feet above sea level—presented a challenge for warplanes. Per a crash site research group, the B-24 was descending through low, visibility-hampering clouds when it encountered the mountains of Arran. The plane struck the “steep cliff side” of Beinn Nuis, says Alexander.

The archaeologist thinks the newly discovered blade may have been collected during the initial clean-up of the crash site in the 1940s, or perhaps during work by the National Trust in the 1980s. It appears to have been prepared for travel, as it was found with “a rope still tied around it,” says Kate Sampson, the Trust’s senior ranger on Arran, in the statement. “We suspect someone might have been dragging the propeller down the hill when it sunk deep into the peat, not to be recovered until now.”

Ranger Kate Sampson and contractor Stewart Lambie pose with the unwrapped blade. National Trust for Scotland

Peatlands are wetland ecosystems marked by perpetually waterlogged layers of partially decayed organic material. They can be found on all continents and are classified into bogs, fens and swamps. As Newsweek’s Aristos Georgiou writes, they are a “vital resource in the fight against climate change” due to their ability to absorb carbon. The Trust’s restoration efforts will “help to ensure [Scotland’s peatland] benefits future generations in the long term,” adds Sampson.

The researchers aren’t ready to come to definitive conclusions about the blade’s origins. It’s still possible the object could have separated from the B-17, whose crash site was partially looted during excavations in the 1980s.

“As a conservation charity, we share Scotland’s heritage and landscapes and their stories, so it was fitting to make this find when we were restoring peatland on Arran,” Alexander tells Newsweek. “These are nationally important military remains, so they certainly have historical significance and a story to tell.”

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