Toxic U-boat to be en­tombed on se­abed

Waikato Times - - World -

Nor­way plans to bury the wreck of a Ger­man sub­ma­rine un­der sand and rub­ble to stop its cargo of mer­cury leak­ing into the sea.

In early 1945 the U-boat had set off for Ja­pan but was tor­pe­doed by a Bri­tish sub­ma­rine off Ber­gen. It was said to have been the first time that one sub­ma­rine had sunk an­other while both were un­der wa­ter. Since then U-864 has re­mained al­most 150m be­low the sur­face just over 3.2 kilo­me­tres from Fedje, an is­land of 600 peo­ple.

The govern­ment is to seal off about 4.4ha of the se­abed un­der up to 12m of rub­ble to limit leak­age from the 1800 mer­cury can­is­ters on board. They have been leak­ing at the rate of about 8lb a year and fishing in the area has been banned.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say that the mea­sure to seal off the dan­ger is not enough. They fear that the wreck, de­scribed as an ‘‘un­der­wa­ter Ch­er­nobyl’’, could still leak mer­cury, with more than 60 tonnes seep­ing out for decades to come. Even in low amounts, mer­cury poses a dan­ger to peo­ple who eat con­tam­i­nated fish. U-864 was sup­posed to be the van­guard of Op­er­a­tion Cae­sar, the Ger­mans’ ill-starred ef­fort to bol­ster their Ja­panese al­lies. The U-boat left Kiel on De­cem­ber 5, 1944, but her hull was dam­aged and the cap­tain sought shel­ter in the sub­ma­rine pens of Nor­way.

The plan was dis­cov­ered by cryp­tol­o­gists at Bletch­ley Park and the Navy dis­patched HMS Ven­turer. On Fe­bru­ary 9, 1945, af­ter a chase last­ing sev­eral hours she fired four tor­pe­dos and the last one hit, sink­ing U-864 with the loss of all 73 crew mem­bers.

Cam­paign­ers had wanted the sub­ma­rine brought ashore but the au­thor­i­ties say that is too risky as the can­is­ters could break up in tran­sit.

The burial op­er­a­tion, ex­pected to cost up to NZ$50 mil­lion, will start next year and fin­ish in 2020.

– The Times

ENVIRON. SCI. TECHNOL

Mer­cury leak­ing from a Ger­man sub­ma­rine wrecked in World War II off Nor­way, shown here in a sonar im­age, is to be cov­ered with rub­ble.

U-864 was sup­posed to be the van­guard of Op­er­a­tion Cae­sar, the Ger­mans’ ill-starred ef­fort to bol­ster their Ja­panese al­lies late in World War II.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.