Search con­tin­ues for sunken mystery ship in North Cape

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MIL­LI­CENT MCKAY mil­li­cent.mckay@jour­nal­pi­

Oliver En­gel con­tin­ues to ex­plore the mystery of a sunken Ger­man U-Boat off North Cape

It’s a ques­tion of myth or re­al­ity for naval his­to­ri­ans and hob­by­ists like Oliver En­gel.

What hap­pened off the coast of North Cape, P.E.I., on May 7, 1943?

There were ru­mours of Ger­man sub­marines as well as Cana­dian and Amer­i­can forces in the area’s waters. But there didn’t seem to be a def­i­nite an­swer.

En­gel started his search for an­swers in 2006.

“I was in Char­lot­te­town and hap­pened to come across a map of sunken ships off the coast­line of the Is­land. But there was also a sub­ma­rine with a ques­tion mark,” ex­plained the Ger­man na­tional who hol­i­days in P.E.I. with his fam­ily ev­ery summer.

He learned the sub­ma­rine was pos­si­bly a Ger­man U-boat.

Upon re­turn­ing to Ger­many, after his hol­i­day in 2006, En­gel be­gan to look for an­swers on the In­ter­net and through Ger­man re­sources.

“There is a depart­ment in the north­ern part of Ger­many. They were very help­ful. They gave me a lot of in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing pho­tos of the sub­ma­rine and an original crew list,” said En­gel.

He also learned about a se­cret mis­sion in­volv­ing a Ger­man ship, pris­on­ers of war and an es­cape plan called Op­er­a­tion El­ster (Mag­pie).

“There was a pris­oner camp in Fred­er­ic­ton, N.B. At the time, Ger­man forces planned to hide in the waters off North Cape while the pris­on­ers were sup­posed to es­cape. When they did, they would travel to that area of the Is­land, get on the ship and re­turn home.”

On his next hol­i­day on the Is­land, En­gel con­tin­ued his search. He stud­ied lit­er­a­ture about the war, the Is­land and div­ing.

He be­gan to think maybe there re­ally was some­thing deep in the waters of North Cape.

Even­tu­ally he made con­tact with an Ot­tawa man who had pre­vi­ously tried his hand at lo­cat­ing the sunken ship. He spoke of a naval ex­er­cise in­volv­ing Cana­dian and Amer­i­can forces on May 7, 1943.

From there, En­gel worked on build­ing a list of lo­cal contacts who might be able to help in the search.

One fish­er­man from the Tig­nish area showed him an original book from a light­house keeper with an en­try on May 7; a Cana­dian Corvette sank a Ger­man sub­ma­rine.

That in­for­ma­tion so­lid­i­fied En­gels’ de­sire to find out if there was in­deed some­thing there.

And so, in 2012, En­gel de­cided to look into the mat­ter him­self. He rented a 4125P side-scan, a portable 12-kilo­gram, high fre­quency sonar sys­tem that is dragged be­hind a boat. It can pro­duce an im­age of the ocean floor in the area and what might be lo­cated where.

En­gel then en­listed the help of Alden Gaudet, a Tig­nish fish­er­man, who owned a boat and was will­ing to go out onto the waters.

They searched the area in 2012 and 2013 but were un­able to lo­cate the ship.

“The area is very big, and it’s not so easy to find some­thing right away.”

En­gel says there is about two to three days work of search­ing still to be com­pleted be­fore the en­tire area, where the ship is be­lieved to be, will be cov­ered.

En­gel put to­gether a brochure about his search in hopes of spread­ing the word about the mystery. Now tourists and Is­lan­ders who come to North Cape can see large pan­els of the brochures put to­gether that were re­cently in­stalled.

En­gel hopes he will be able to pick up the search for the sub­ma­rine over the next few years.

“The is­sue is you need a sides­can. It’s a very ex­pen­sive piece of equip­ment. But at the same time you need a boat, you need good weather and more time.

“Maybe next year I’ll be able to con­tinue this search. It’s a hobby of mine but an in­ter­est­ing one.”


Oliver En­gel, left, is shown with his son Lars, in front of the re­cently in­stalled in­for­ma­tion pan­els de­scrib­ing the myth of the sunken Ger­man U-boat off the coast of North Cape.

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