...mer­cury has caused high lev­els of con­tam­i­na­tion...

Boating NZ - - Boat World -

In a ground­break­ing project 150m below the sur­face, a Nor­we­gian team is at­tempt­ing to bury a wrecked Nazi sub­ma­rine in a bid to con­tain toxic chem­i­cals leak­ing into the sea.

U-864 was tor­pe­doed off the coast of Ber­gen, Nor­way, by Bri­tish sub HMS Ven­turer in 1945. Among U-864’ s cargo were 1,800 can­is­ters – around 65 tonnes – of mer­cury.

An es­ti­mated four kilo­grams of mer­cury has been ooz­ing into the wa­ter every year – forc­ing au­thor­i­ties to ban boat­ing and fish­ing in the area. The mer­cury has caused high lev­els of con­tam­i­na­tion in cod, torsk and ed­i­ble crab.

The Nor­we­gian gov­ern­ment now plans to cover the 11 acres of seabed around the 2400-tonne wreck with up to 40ft of rub­ble to con­tain the leak­ing mer­cury. Ex­pected to cost up to $50 mil­lion, the op­er­a­tion will start next year and fin­ish in 2020.

Re­searchers say sim­i­lar en­tomb­ing projects to con­tain mer­cury-con­tam­i­nated sites have been used around 30 times over the last 20 years and have worked well. Cam­paign­ers wanted the sub­ma­rine sal­vaged and brought ashore but the au­thor­i­ties say the can­is­ters could break if they are moved.

The ship­wreck was first dis­cov­ered in March 2003 by a Royal Nor­we­gian Navy minesweeper af­ter be­ing alerted by lo­cal fish­er­men.

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