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Norwegian coast again threatened by U-boat wreck?

Although the days when German U-boats wreaked havoc on the seas are long gone, it turns out that the wrecks of these ships still pose a threat. In this particular case, we are talking about the Kriegsmarine submarine U-864, which went down near the coast of Norway, with 67 tonnes of mercury on board. The
Published: December 12, 2017 - 16:45
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 16:08
Norwegian coast again threatened by U-boat wreck?

Although the days when German U-boats wreaked havoc on the seas are long gone, it turns out that the wrecks of these ships still pose a threat. In this particular case, we are talking about the Kriegsmarine submarine U-864, which went down near the coast of Norway, with 67 tonnes of mercury on board.

The wreck of U-boat number 864 appears in the headlines every few years. All because of the dangerous cargo that lies inside. This time is no different. An earthquake of almost 4 on the Richter scale struck the area where the ticking ecological bomb is lying.

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Ever since the wreck was discovered in 2003, Norwegian authorities have been wondering what to do with it. At the bottom, the German ship rested in two parts, located at 150 and 170 metres depth respectively. Over time, an area of 30,000m² has been contaminated with toxic metal.

In the past it was considered to raise U-864, but this operation was considered too risky. The condition of the wreck is quite poor, and in addition there is a lot of hazardous material on board such as more than 20 torpedoes. Finally, in February 2017, a special sarcophagus was created to isolate the danger. The contaminated area was covered with a layer of sand and then additionally covered with 160,000 tonnes of rock.

Nothing lasts forever, however, and scientists fear that a strong earthquake in the immediate vicinity of the wreck could once again make the wreck a huge threat to the region. Therefore, the issue of the U-864 is still a problem that the Norwegians must solve.

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The story of the last voyage and sinking of U-864

The submarine U-864, under the command of 32-year-old Captain Ralf-Reimar Wolfram, was sent on a secret mission codenamed “Caesar” to Japan. An Asian ally of Nazi Germany, it was expecting a shipment of jet aircraft engines from the Junkers, BMW and Messerschmitt factories, as well as design plans for Germany’s latest Me 163 and Me 262 aircraft.

While mercury was to be used to create explosives, it was in the engines and construction plans that the Japanese saw a huge opportunity to regain the upper hand in the Pacific War with the USA.

The Allies caught up with the German submariners near Shetland and prevented the transport from reaching the shores of the Empire of Japan. On February 9, 1945, the British submarine HMS “Venturer” under the command of 25 year old Lieutenant Commander James “Jimmy” S. Launders, tracked the U-boat near Bergen and made a successful attack, sending the enemy vessel to the bottom.

Interestingly, this was the only case known to date where one submarine sank another submarine while both were submerged.

Seventy-four people died on board the German ship. In addition to the crew, Rolf von Chlingensperg and Riclef Schomerus, two prominent engineers employed by Messerschmitt, and two Japanese – Tadao Yamoto, a torpedo expert, and Toshio Nakai, a fuel specialist – also died inside the U-boat.

Source: nrk.no

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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