German U-boat surveyed more than 100 years after wartime sinking

High-resolution survey of U-boat.
High-resolution survey of German WWI U-boat UC-47. Credit: Tolmount Development

A First World War German submarine has been surveyed for the first time since its loss in 1917.

Sophisticated scanning techniques and deep-sea video footage have revealed a large hole in the boat’s hull – caused by an attacking British naval vessel.

Scientists led by deep sea archaeological expert Dr Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton, in collaboration with offshore survey companies MMT and Reach Subsea, investigated the wreck of UC-47 on behalf of Tolmount Development during offshore operations to prepare for the laying of a new pipeline in the North Sea, some 20 nautical miles off the coast of Yorkshire, England.

Using state-of-the-art robotics and high-resolution geophysical equipment, the wreck, which lies 50 metres below the surface, was mapped and inspected in unprecedented detail, showing an astonishing level of preservation.

UC-47 was credited with sinking more than 50 vessels in her year long career and within the German Imperial Navy, had a reputation as a lucky vessel. But on 18 November 1917 her luck ran out when the Royal Navy patrol boat HMS P-57 surprised her on the surface – ramming and then depth charging the U-boat. The sub went down with all hands and has rested on the seabed ever since.

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