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WWII U-boat found off the Açores

u35uboat"It's 870 meters deep and it's a great scientific opportunity because it was colonised by corals," says Kirsten Jakobsen, referring to German U-boat, number U-581, which sunk 75 years ago.

The German submarine was found by a team of researchers from the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation*, it was announced today, Wednesday February 1st, but "the discovery was made on September 13th, 2016.

The wreck of the submarine is located south of São Mateus on the island of Pico in the Açores," said Kirsten Jakobsen, who with her husband, Joachim Jakobsen, found the wreck of the submarine which is preserved in a sheath of cold water coral.

Kristen Jakobsen, who has been living on Faial for 17 years, said the submarine was sunk on 2 February 1942,  after being hunted down and attacked by the British W-class destroyer HMS Westcott.

The submarine was sunk by depth charges, with 4 dead and 41 survivors who were picked up by the British and ended up as POWs, not being released until 1947.

One of the German officers, Ltn. Walter Sitek, (pictured below) managed to swim 6 km to shore at a point near the village of Guidaste, where he was rescued by locals. He then managed to make his way to neutral Spain and from there to Germany, after which he served again in the U-bootwaffe.  Oblt. Sitek went on to command three further U-boats (17, 981 and 3005)  and survived the war with Iron Crosses, First and Second Class.

 The Type VIIC U-boat was launched in June 1941 and managed one kill, a 364 ton auxiliary warship.

"The wreck has been transformed into an authentic cold-water coral reef, 870 meters deep and a great opportunity for scientific study because it is colonised by corals and sponges," said Kristen Jakobsen, stressing that "we have vulnerable ecosystems here" and that, "very little is known about growth rates."

In the first phase, between March and September 2016, the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation team located the U-581 wreck site by studying contemporary reports of the sinking and then by using high-tech equipment such as multi-beam and lateral scan sonar.

The Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation explained that Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen had verified the position of the wreck using the 'LULA 1000' manned submersible and that the investigation was "with due authorisation from the Regional Directorate for Culture of the Regional Government of the Açores."

"We used remote acoustic technologies for the search and, due to the great panoramic view of our submersible, we were able to find the wreck," said Joachim Jakobsen.

For Kristen Jakobsen, the fact that the wreckage is there at all, is "a reason for the protection and safeguarding of this heritage, which now will be studied in its historical and social context, and from the point of view of marine biology."

The Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation is a public institution based in Faial Island. It operates the only manned research submersible in Portugal, the LULA 1000, capable of diving up to 1,000 metres deep, with a crew of three.

In addition to scientific research projects and mapping of deep-sea habitats, the LULA 1000 has been used for filming TV documentaries for the BBC and National Geographic.

 

 __________

 

*Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation

The Fundação Rebikoff-Niggeler was established in 1994 on the Azores island of Faial by the German Joachim Jakobsen. The Azores government recognized it as a not-for-profit organization in 2000. Its goal is to continue the legacy of underwater pioneers Dimitri Rebikoff and Ada Rebikoff-Niggeler.
Joachim Jakobsen in Lula 1000
Joachim Jakobsen in Lula 1000

The Fundação Rebikoff-Niggeler was established in 1994 on the Azores island of Faial by the German Joachim Jakobsen. The Azores government recognized it as a not-for-profit organization in 2000. Its goal is to continue the legacy of underwater pioneers Dimitri Rebikoff and Ada Rebikoff-Niggeler.

Dimitri Rebikoff, born 1921 in Paris, made revolutionary inventions in camera and diving technology. He died in Florida in 1997. Among his inventions are the electronic flash, a device to measure color temperatures, various camera systems, and the first diving robot to be controlled from the water surface. For decades, Rebikoff engaged in scientific competition with Jacques Cousteau and achieved considerable successes.

Ada Niggeler was born in 1913 in Grossaffoltern, Switzerland. She was a well-known photographer who depicted people, landscapes, and nature in her photographic reporting. In 1951, she and her husband Dimitri Rebikoff shifted their work focus on diving and underwater photography. She died at the age of 98.

Fundação Rebikoff-Niggeler was established to explore the undersea world around the Azores. The Foundation and its agents have extensive experience and professional background in deep-sea navigation. The Foundation and the Lula1000 project are mainly driven by Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen, who are continuing the research dynasty. Jakobsen's father was one of Rebikoff's closest collaborators. "I have been right in the middle of this work since my childhood. Rebikoff was my technical mentor," says Jakobsen. Based on his researcher genes, curiosity and love of freedom, Jakobsen dreamed of building a submersible even as a child. He later designed the Lula500 and has now cooperated with Germanische Lloyd to construct the Lula1000 within three years.

 

Comments  

+1 #2 John Smith 2017-06-24 14:45
Agree with sentiments of Rod Davies....
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+6 #1 Rod Davies 2017-02-02 14:17
Annoying that some Allied WW2 designated war grave wrecks off Far Eastern coasts have already been lifted and sold for scrap. Hopefully these submariners will get the respect they deserve and left in peace. The depth will help.
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