Marine Scientists Explore WWII Shipwrecks Off The NC Coast

Sep 2, 2016

Here, Project Baseline's Nemo submersible shines its lights on the U-boat lying on its starboard side.
Credit John McCord, UNC Coastal Studies Institute - Battle of the Atlantic expedition.

Maritime archeologists are hoping to shed light on a little-known World War II battlefield off the North Carolina Coast.

In July of 1942, a German U-boat sank the freighter SS Bluefields in the waters near Cape Hatteras. The US Navy returned fire and sank the German sub with 45 crewmen on board.

The wrecks were discovered two years ago 35 miles offshore resting just 200 yards apart.

Joe Hoyt is the maritime archeologist leading the expedition to explore the shipwrecks using non-invasive techniques.

"What we're doing is collecting really high resolution imagery to plug that into a broader context, but also to answer some questions as to what happened in the last moments of the battle and sort of virtually raise these wrecks from the seabed," said Hoyt.

According to David Alberg, Superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, many people don't realize how close the Second World War came to American shores.

"This is where the war came home to us," said Alberg. "When we work to preserve the U-boat and the U-boat story, it’s really preserving American history and a dark chapter in American history that is really not very well known."

The project is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, Project Baseline, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, and SRI International.

Though the expedition was put on hold due to Tropical Storm Hermine, scientists expect to finish their surveys later this week.