Going deep for history

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is leading a research expedition through July 26 to examine the wrecks of three German submarines off the coast of North Carolina, according to a recent press release.

The subs were sunk by U.S. forces in 1942 during the Battle of the Atlantic. The expedition will involve scientists from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries surveying and photographing their visible sections using non-invasive procedures, according to the report.

“This expedition is the first part of a larger multi-year project to research and document a number of historically significant shipwrecks tragically lost during World War II, including U.S. and British naval vessels and merchant marine vessels,” stated David W. Alberg, expedition leader, in the report. “The information collected during this expedition will be crucial to efforts to preserve these historic sites.”

The vessels are located in an area known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” which includes shipwrecks from both sides of the Battle of the Atlantic at less than 130 feet from the water’s surface, according to the report. Two of the subs, U-352 and U-85, have been damaged severely by salvage operators and souvenir hunters since their discovery three decades ago. The third, U-701, is mostly intact, but also is showing signs of illegal salvage attempts. It was discovered by recreational divers in 1989, but then covered in sand, possibly as an attempt to preserve the artifact. It was rediscovered in 2004, according to the report.

The second phase of the project in summer 2009 will investigate the allied wrecks in the same area. While some are at diving depths, others lie deeper and remain untouched. The NOAA also is working with a number of local universities who are providing technical and logistical support for the mission. For information, visit www.noaa.gov

— Elizabeth Ellis