Archaeology: German submarine discovered 105 years after sinking in British waters | Science | Messages


Underwater camera explores sunken German submarine

During World War I, the Germans decided to focus their efforts on areas where ships were concentrated. The Irish Sea proved to be the perfect hunting ground as they could focus on many ships at once rather than chasing them across the Atlantic. German U-boats were so deadly that the Allies dubbed the Irish Sea “U-Boot Alley”. Although U-boats hunted in abundance in the Irish Sea, they mostly managed to evade a counterattack.

The Allies struggled to contain the U-boat offensive, losing up to 100 ships a month and sinking hardly any in return.

Some of the deadliest were the UC II minelaying submarines, a special class of submarine widely regarded as the most successful submarine design in history.

The marine archaeologist Dr. Innes McCartney went to work to find the wreck of one of these submarines in British waters for the recent National Geographic documentary.Investigation of ocean wrecks‘.

SM UC-66 was launched 15 July 1916 and was credited with sinking 32 ships in its five patrols.

However, less than a year after its launch, it was self-sunk.

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Archaeologists unearth ‘unprecedented’ wreck of UC-66. (Image: National Geographic)

dr  Innes McCartney

The team of dr. Innes McCartney discovered the war wreck. (Image: National Geographic)

dr McCartney and his team used surveying techniques to analyze a wreck on the seabed off the Isles of Scilly during a 2018 mission.

They successfully identified the six mine tubes in the bow that were unique to the UC II submarines.

He said: “There is absolutely no doubt that this is a UC II class minelayer. The wreck will be identified at class level.”

The documentary’s narrator added, “This submarine suffered a catastrophic event that sent it to the bottom of the Atlantic.”

dr McCartney continued, “Well, it’s a UC II class minelayer. And as such, and at that location and with the bomb damage, I’d conclude it’s UC-66.”

Mine tubes in war submarine.

They successfully identified the six mine tubes. (Image: National Geographic)

Lying 100 meters at the bottom of the Atlantic, the wreck is split in two by a massive explosion next to the conning tower – a raised platform from which the officer in charge can ‘steer’ a ship and control movement by issuing orders to it Under him.

The ship lies exactly as described in a British pilot’s report. dr McCartney described the events leading up to the sinking of UC-66.

He explained: “UC-66 had been ordered to lay mines in the Bristol Channel and then sink ships along the Irish coast before returning to base.

“So when it passed the Isles of Scilly, it entered the area where it was supposed to start work.”

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UC-66 shipwreck

The wreck has split in two on the seabed as shown in this image. (Image: National Geographic)

On May 27, 1917, UC-66 opened fire on a nearby Allied ship. The shot was heard on Tresco, the second largest island in the Isles of Scilly.

Allied forces launched a seaplane towards the incident. His Majesty’s Seaplane No. 8656 quickly arrived at the scene.

Pilot John Hall spotted a dark shadow on the surface of the water. The submarine spotted the plane and opened fire as the plane flew low to attack.

Despite the onslaught of the submarine’s machine guns, Mr. Hall continued to plunge downward.

UC-66 German submarine

The UC-66 was the only World War I submarine to be sunk alone by an airplane. (Image: National Geographic)

He dropped four 100-pound bombs, two of which landed right next to UC-66’s conning tower.

Flight Lieutenant John Hoare wrote in his report that the submarine had sunk at the bow and the stern was sticking out of the water.

dr McCartney added: “The submarine exploded and it appeared to go nose down and sink.

“It is the only incident in all of World War I in which a plane alone sank a submarine.

“It was missed by the records. So it is a totally unique, unprecedented event.”

The sinking of UC-66 marked a rare defeat for the Germans at a time when Allied forces were grappling with the U-boat offensive.

Many German and British war wrecks lie off the Cornish coast.

Numerous submarines including UC-51 and UB-65 can be found, more in the Irish Sea.


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