First glimpses revealed of WWII shipwrecks discovered off North Carolina coast. The subaquatic video released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals the sunken remains of the German submarine U-576 and the Nicaraguan-flagged freighter SS Bluefield, more than 70 years after they perished in a convoy battle off North Carolina.
On July 15, 1942, the German submarine U-576 sank the SS Bluefield during the battle of Convoy KS-520 off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, however the convoy and its US military escorts fought back, sinking the U-boat with return fire from a US Navy Armed Guard crew and an aerial depth charge attack.
The sinking was one of many that happened in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor as German U-boats began patrolling off the coast of North Carolina, sinking merchant ships and allied Naval vessels.
Many Americans are unaware how close World War II came to home. Within weeks of the attack on Pearl Harbor, German U-boats began patrolling off the coast of North Carolina, sinking merchant ships and allied Naval vessels with impunity. In 1942 alone, more than 80 ships were sunk and over 1,600 men were lost.
In 2011, the NOAA announced it would lead an expedition to locate and study World War II shipwrecks sunk in 1942 off North Carolina during the Battle of the Atlantic, specifically the Battle of Convoy KS-520.
These two vessels were discovered in 2014, 35 miles offshore in approximately 700 feet of water, with just 200 yards separating them.
The German World War II submarine U-576 © NOAA / Ed Caram
NOAA and its research partners are now surveying, for the first time since they sank more than 70 years ago, the remains of two ships that were involved in a convoy battle off North Carolina during World War II. This video marks the first time these ships have been seen, painting a greater understanding of a little-known, but important, chapter in the nation’s maritime history.
The ships are now being surveyed until September 6 using advanced data acquisition and visualization technologies in order to produce a complete characterization of the shipwrecks and the surrounding submerged battleground.
“The significance of these sites cannot be overstated,” said David Alberg, superintendent of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
“This area off North Carolina is the best representation of a WWII battlefield off the East coast. Now, working with our partners, we have an opportunity to study it, characterize it, and, like other historic battlefields in this country, hopefully protect it.”
Project Baseline, a global conservation nonprofit, is supplying the research vessel Baseline Explorer, and two manned submersibles.
Project Baseline's Nomad submerible is hoisted aboard R/V Baseline Explorer after resurfacing from a dive © David Sybert, UNC Coastal Studies Institute - Battle of the Atlantic expedition
The surveying expedition which began on August 22 has already resulted in some spectacular footage giving the public a first look at these submersed WWII relics.
The Battle of the Atlantic: Archaeology of an Underwater WWII Battlefield” expedition will continue with the goal of comprehensively defining the WWII naval battlefield and giving a greater understanding of this chapter of US maritime history.
In August - September 2016, during the “Battle of the Atlantic: Archaeology of an Underwater WWII Battlefield” expedition, scientists are conducting a comprehensive characterization and interpretation of the shipwrecks and the surrounding battlefield, along with related World War II shipwrecks lost in the area, using advanced data acquisition and visualization technologies. This study will provide data to tell an incredible story of a World War II battlefield just a few miles off America’s coast.
The expedition is being led by NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Project Baseline, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, SRI International, and 2G Robotics.