INDUSTRY NEWSDIVERS FIND HISTORIC WORLD WAR ONE U-BOATTechnical divers have located U-111, the final ‘lost’ World War One German submarine wreck in US waters, at a depth of 120m – confounding US Navy records that placed it four times deeper.

The discovery was made on 5 September some 40 miles off Virginia’s Atlantic coast by technical divers and wreck-hunters Erik A Petkovic and Rusty Cassway, using an ROV from the latter’s 13m diveboat Explorer. Their expedition was supported and reported by National Geographic.

Completed by the German Imperial Navy in January 1918, U-111 went on to sink three Allied merchant ships during its Atlantic patrols. After the Armistice, the 72-metre U-boat was one of a number that surrendered to the Royal Navy and were laid up in Harwich, where many were scrapped.

U-111 was retained for technical analysis before becoming one of six U-boats to be sent to the USA. The submarine completed a tour of Atlantic ports as a fund-raising public attraction before conducting mechanical efficiency experiments off Florida and Cuba. It was eventually scuttled 100 years ago at the end of August 1922, but only following a series of unintentional sinkings.

Towed south from dry dock in Maine, U-111 was to have been used for target practice off North Carolina but foundered and was left half-submerged at a depth of 10m off Virginia Beach. The U-boat then had to be raised and taken to Norfolk, Virginia but sank and had to be raised again before being towed far out to sea and explosive charges detonated.

Naval archives recorded it as coming to rest way beyond scuba-diving depths at almost 500m but Petkovic doubted this and began expanding on earlier research by technical diver Gary Gentile. He and Cassway believed that U-111 had ended up further landward on a diveable shelf, eventually confirming this suspicion by analysing local fishing vessels’ snag records. The ROV soon found the wreck, with images of its distinctive 10cm fore and aft guns and conning tower indicating a match.

The team then planned to return and drop in three technical divers along with the ROV, only to decide against scuba diving late on because of the coincident deaths of two other wreck-divers. However, the ROV’s images of open hatches along U-111’s hull and other details were enough to confirm the earlier identification. The team hope to send divers down to the wreck next year, and to capture images to create a 3D photogrammetric model.