We finally know why these mysterious 'Tjipetir blocks' are washing up on European beaches

The World
Beachcomber and historian Tracy Williams discovered her first Tjipetir block in the summer of 2012. Now, she runs a Facebook group collecting photos and stories of other blocks that have washed up on beaches throughout northern Europe.

Beachcomber Tracy Williams discovered her first Tjipetir block in the summer of 2012. Now, she runs a Facebook group collecting photos and stories of other blocks that have washed up on beaches throughout northern Europe.

Courtesy of Tom Quinn Williams/Tjipetir Mystery Facebook page

Beach visitors for years have wondered why rubber-like slabs, imprinted with the word "Tjipetir," were washing up on beaches throughout northern Europe.

But recently, the history of these blocks was uncovered by British beachcomber Tracy Williams. And it dates all the way back to submarine warfare of World War I.

“I’m not a historian, I just clean the beaches,” she says. “I do walk on the beach with my dog every day, and I’m always absolutely intrigued by everything that washes up and where it comes from.”

Back in 2012, she discovered her first Tjipetir block during a beachside stroll in Cornwall, England. 

“I took it home, and I googled the word 'Tjipetir,' and at that time there was hardly anything on the internet about it. It really just said it was a village in Indonesia,” she says. So, she put it in her yard and forgot about it.

But just a few weeks later, on a different beach, she found the same oddity — this time, accompanied by bales of rubber. “Finding one was understandable, but a second one turning up was quite odd.”

Naturally, Williams got curious and decided to do some investigating.