German WWI U-boat found after 100 years missing at sea

A wreck found at the bottom of the sea off England has been identified as a long-lost German submarine from the First World War, an energy company announced on Thursday.

German WWI U-boat found after 100 years missing at sea
A different Imperial German Navy U-Boat, U-14, pictured in 1918 in the Black Sea. Photo: DPA

ScottishPower Renewables workers detected the submarine lying 90 kilometres (56 miles) off the coast of Norfolk in East England, 30 metres deep in the North Sea, while researching for a windfarm development in 2012.

A team of Dutch Navy divers, who hoped the wreck might be the Netherlands' final missing submarine from the Second World War, investigated the wreck and filmed it where it lay preserved on the sea bed.

Studies identified the submarine as Germany's U-31, which left for a patrol on January 13, 1915 and never returned.

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“Unravelling the whole story behind the submarine has been fascinating,” said Charlie Jordan, project director with ScottishPower renewables.

“It's heartening to know that the discovery will provide closure to relatives and descendants of the submariners lost who may have always wondered what had happened to their loved ones.”

It is thought that the submarine hit a mine and sank, killing all 35 men on board.

Mark Dunkley, a marine archaeologist at preservation organisation Historic England, said that the submarine was in a “remarkable condition”.

“The discovery serves as a poignant reminder of all those lost at sea, on land and in the air during the First World War,” Dunkley said.

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Mysterious German U-boat wreckage found off Scotland

ScottishPower has uncovered the wreckage of a German U-boat from the First World War whilst laying subsea power cables.

Mysterious German U-boat wreckage found off Scotland
Photo: ScottishPower

Sonar images released by the Scotland-based energy company on Wednesday have identified a wreck on the sea floor, which experts have suggested may be the famous UB-85.

According to folklore, the crew of the submarine managed to fight off an attack from a sea monster, but the resulting damage forced them to surrender to a British Navy ship.

The legend goes that the U-boat captain, Günther Krech, described how a “beast” with “large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull [with] a small head, but with teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight” had attacked their craft.

“Every man on watch began firing a sidearm at the beast,” he is believed to have said. “That is why you were able to catch us on the surface.”

The crew of HMS Coreopsis was therefore amazed on April 30th 1918 when the enemy U-boat surrendered without resistance between the Scottish and Irish coasts.

The black asterisk marks where the wreckage has been discovered. Photo: ScottishPower

However, with a U-boat now discovered on the seabed, the truth behind the fate of the submarine may emerge from the depths.

Experts cannot be certain yet that it is the fabled submarine, but Innes McCartney, an historian and nautical archaeologist, said that “the features of this particular wreck, which is largely intact, confirm it as a UBIII-Class submarine.”

“We know of two [such submarines] which were lost in the area – the more famous UB-85 and its sister boat UB-82.”

Dr. McCartney favours a mechanical explanation for the U-boat’s inability to dive.

“We’re certainly closer to solving the so-called mystery of UB-85 and the reason behind it sinking – whether common mechanical failure or something that is less easily explained.”

However, some believe the fantastic tale to be equally probable.

“The area of sea where the attack took place has a history of sea monster sightings,” explained Gary Campbell, keeper of the Official Sightings Register of the Loch Ness Monster. “What the German captain said could well be true.”

“It’s great to see how Nessie’s saltwater cousin clearly got involved in helping with the war effort,” he continued.

Marine engineers working on a project with ScottishPower called Western Link came across the wreckage whilst laying a subsea marine cable that is going to stretch for 385 kilometres, making it the longest of its type in the world.

“In all the years I have been building power lines, I can say that this is the most extraordinary discovery,” said Peter Roper of ScottishPower.

It follows the discovery of another German First World War U-boat in January of this year, which was found by ScottishPower off the coast of Norfolk, east England.