The Iron Harvest of WWI

Chris Higgins
YouTube / The New York Times
YouTube / The New York Times / YouTube / The New York Times

Stijn Butaye works on his family's farm in western Belgium, and he has an unusual hobby: collecting World War I bombs.

The bombs turn up in the fields, even a hundred years after the Great War began, and Butaye collects them in a small museum on the property in Ypres, Belgium. According to the New York Times, "Since January, Stijn Butaye has collected 46 mortar shells on his family’s 100 acres, World War I munitions he found among the sugar beet and potato fields, sometimes with the help of his metal detector." Most years in Ypres, there are deaths from unexploded shells that turn up while plowing fields or excavating for building projects.

Here's a short video showing Butaye's unusual-but-necessary hobby:

Read the rest from the New York Times. I found this particularly terrifying (emphasis added): "Experts say that in one particularly intense three-month campaign in 1917, known as the Third Battle of Ypres, or the Battle of Passchendaele, the British alone fired more than four million shells." And an estimated 30% of those shells didn't explode at the time.

And here's a video about a man in France who removes these munitions. He says he disposes of 40-50 tons of shells each year.