Seabed scanning in preparation for wind farm development in the East Anglia Zone off the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk has revealed a Germany WWI submarine.
In advance of any offshore wind farm development, a bevy of tasks must be completed to ensure that the projected development area is safe, secure, and ready for offshore wind farm development. One such task is scanning the seafloor for any obstacles that might get in the way of installing the foundations necessary for offshore wind turbines.
Wind farm developers ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) and Vattenfall were conducting just such scans and recently found an “uncharted” wreck of a WWI German submarine 90 kilometers from the shore. SPR and Vattenfall were using advanced sonar technology to scan over 6,000km2 of the seabed in the Southern North Sea over two years, which is nearly 4 times the size of Greater London (1,583km2).
“The scanning team were expecting to see wrecks, but such a discovery was quite a surprise and has been extremely interesting,” said Charlie Jordan, ScottishPower Renewables’ project director for the East Anglia ONE windfarm.
“Following the discovery the team reported its findings to the relevant authorities, including RoW (Receiver of Wreck) in the UK,” said Andy Paine, Vattenfall project director of East Anglia Offshore Wind Farm.
“The seabed scanning had been undertaken by Netherlands-owned company Fugro, and their team made us aware of the Dutch Navy’s hunt for its last remaining missing WWII submarine,” the Dutch military submarine HNLMS 013, which went missing during World War II, in June, 1940. “We were all extremely keen to make contact with the Dutch Navy to see if this could be the submarine they have been looking for over so many years: could we at last have solved the mystery?”
In fact, after GoPro footage was taken by Dutch Navy divers, the layout of the wreck suggested that it was German in origin, and was later identified as a Type U-31 WWI German submarine, and later confirmed to be German Submarine U-331, which left for patrol on 13 January, 1915, and never returned.
“SM U-31 was commissioned into the Imperial German Navy in September 1914. On 13th January 1915, the U-31 slipped its mooring and sailed north-west from Wilhelmshaven for a routine patrol and disappeared,” explained Mark Dunkley, marine archaeologist at Historic England. “It is thought that U-31 had struck a mine off England’s east coast and sank with the loss of its entire complement of 4 officers, 31 men.”
“The discovery and identification of SM U-31 by ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall, lying some 91km east of Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, is a significant achievement. After being on the seabed for over a century, the submarine appears to be in a remarkable condition with the conning tower present and the bows partially buried.
“Relatives and descendants of those lost in the U-31 may now take some comfort in knowing the final resting place of the crew and the discovery serves as a poignant reminder of all those lost at sea, on land and in the air during the First World War.”
“Whilst it was disappointing from our perspective when we realised the wreck was not that of O-13, we conducted several dives with divers of the minehunter HNLMS Makkum and with a REMUS UAV sonar team with the aim to achieve clearer footage of the wreck and undertake investigative work to ascertain its identity,” added Commander (Retired) Jouke Spoelstra of the RNLNavy/Submarine Service, who heads up project ‘Search for O-13’. “It wasn’t an easy job and several dives were required before any real progress was made due to the sea conditions surrounding the site meaning we couldn’t obtain any evidence revealing the exact identity. Fortunately on a recent dive undertaken by the Lamlash North Sea Diving team they had good conditions and so were able to achieve clear footage and finally identify the wreck.”
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