NOAA Diving on U-boats

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by ccheese, Jul 21, 2008.

  1. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    DIAMOND SHOALS
    Deep purple water with streaks of sparkling azure concealed a war grave 110 feet beneath the surface. A vessel plying the waters off the Outer Banks on Saturday was hunting for what was once the hunter, a German submarine sunk 66 years ago by depth charges dropped by an American bomber.

    Divers on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's new 41-foot catamaran were geared up and waiting to descend to survey the U-701, the most intact of discovered U-boats sunk off the North Carolina coast.

    Boat captain Chad Smith, NOAA's East Coast vessel coordinator, slowed the catamaran's motor and circled the position above where the wreck lay mostly buried on the ocean floor about 22 miles off Avon.

    "All right, guys, start moving toward the stern," dive master Tane Casserley said to the five divers. The boat's motor was cut.

    "Dive, dive, dive!"

    Casserley, a NOAA archaeologist and diver who is serving as the principal co-investigator in the research expedition, watched as the men disappeared under the water. The divers on the vessel were part of a 19-day project to study the U-701 and two other submarine wrecks sunk off the coast in 1942 during the Battle of the Atlantic.

    "Ultimately, the goal is to protect all the wrecks around here," said Casserley, the national maritime heritage coordinator for NOAA's Office of the National Marine Sanctuaries. "What we want to stop is the looting and souvenir hunting that goes on."

    On their second attempt, the divers, some carrying huge cameras as well as the 120 pounds of tanks on their backs, located the U-701. Visibility was good, they said, but the strong 2-knot current made it a challenge to survey the wreck.

    "Everything is on it - all the hatches, everything, " John
    McCord, education programs coordinator with the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, said as he peeled off his diving gear. "I had my feet dug in and I was leaning as far back as I can. Every time I'd sit back and film, it would slowly push me back up."

    Exploration of the U-352 off Morehead City began the week of July 7, but four days were lost to bad weather. The U-85 off of Nags Head, as well as the U-701, will be studied this week.

    NOAA and partners from the state, the Minerals Management Service, the National Park Service, East Carolina University and the UNC i nstitute have combined their areas of expertise in surveying and photographing the vessels.
    "Never has a detailed archaeological survey of the wrecks been done," David Alberg, superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, said in an interview before the expedition. "This is step one. We're not digging, and we're not touching the site."

    At least 10 German sailors are believed to be entombed in the U-701. The U-352 also contains war dead. U.S. and international policies prohibit disturbance of maritime graves.

    The U-85, the first U-boat submarine sunk in U.S. waters, and the U-352 have been popular recreational diving sites for years; each has been picked clean of artifacts. But until 2004, the U-701 was undisturbed because only one diver knew the coordinates, and he kept them secret.

    After Hurricane Isabel partially unburied the submarine, word got out about its location. NOAA worked with other government agencies and members of the diving community to create a diving preserve at the site. Within months, a dive team discovered that numerous parts of the wreck had been stolen.
    But still, the U-701 retains much of its original condition, and NOAA has maintained its goal of creating a sanctuary for the wreck.

    "This is the one that has the most chance of being preserved and protected for the American public," Casserley said.

    The other two submarine sites may also qualify for cultural protection, he said. A goal of the project is to have the wreck sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as to establish diving sanctuaries. There are 14 protected areas in the National Marine Sanctuary System.

    "We're not limiting divers by any means," Casserley said. "We want divers to enjoy them. We just don't want them to take anything from them."

    Researchers plan to post the data learned from the expedition online, he said. And next year, the expedition will be surveying a yet-to-be-learned number of Allied wrecks sunk in waters off the North Carolina coast.

    The project is a significant step in preservation of maritime history and culture, said Joe Hoyt, a maritime archaeologist contractor for NOAA.
    "It's one of the closest places where the war came home to America continuously," he said.

    "It's really the only place where you can visit the battlefield of the Atlantic."

    This from the [Norfolk] Virginian Pilot

    Charles
     
  2. wilbur1

    wilbur1 Active Member

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    Cool story charles:D
     
  3. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    thanks for the post!

    dangerious dive but it would be fun to check out.
    .
     
  4. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Awesome!!! Glad NOAA is taking a vested interest in keeping souvenier hunters out.

    Anybody else read "Shadow Hunters" by Robert Kurson?
     
  5. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    Great post Charles, would be interesting to see!
     
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