NAVAL HISTORY

Spain’s Iberdrola finds WWI German U-boat on bed of Irish Sea

The vessel, almost intact, may have been sunk by a British patrol in 1918

Ships lay out the Western Link submarine cable.
Ships lay out the Western Link submarine cable.Iberdrola

Engineers working on the €1.2-billion Western Link submarine cable between Scotland and England have stumbled on the remains of a German First World War submarine, Iberdrola’s UK unit Scottish Power said in a statement.

After examining “incredibly detailed” sonar images of the wreck found off the coast of Wigtownshire in southwestern Scotland, experts now believe the ship, which is largely intact, is more than 100 years old and could be the UB-85 submarine.

An old sea tale has it that the submarine was rammed by a “beast” with “large eyes”

Official reports from the period show that the 45-meter UB-85 was captured on the surface on April 30, 1918 and then sunk by British patrol boat the HMS Coreopsis. The vessel’s crew surrendered without resistance, to the surprise of the British.

But in an old sea tale that provides a different version of the submarine’s fate, its commander, Captain Günther Krech, claimed that a “beast” with “large eyes” had charged the boat while it was recharging its batteries on the surface at night. According to the tale, the submarine was so seriously damaged in the confrontation with the sea monster that it was later unable to submerge to avoid the British.

Historian and nautical archaeologist Innes McCartney, who has been working with Scottish Power to identify the boat, says at least 12 British and German submarines are known to have sunk in the Irish Sea. He believes the features of the wreck confirm it as UB III-Class submarine and says two such vessels were lost in the area, UB-85 and a UB-82.

“While I can conclude that this wreck is likely to be one or the other, they would be practically impossible to tell apart, aside from the numbers painted on them in service, now obviously long gone,” McCartney said.

“Unless a diver can find a shipyard stamp, we cannot say definitively, but yes, we’re certainly closer to solving the so-called mystery of UB-85 and the reason behind its sinking – whether common mechanical failure or something that is less easily explained,” he said.

We’re certainly now closer to solving the so-called mystery of UB-85 Historian Innes McCartney

The Western Link cable – a joint project being run by Scottish Power and National Grid – will be 385 kilometers long when completed, and is to be the longest of its kind in the world. It will bring electricity from wind farms in Scotland to England.

English version by George Mills.

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