World War I-Era German Submarine Resurfaces From the Sand Near French Coast

UC-61’s remains, seen here in December 2018.
Photo: Geert Van Pamel (Wikimedia Commons)

The remains of SM UC-61, a World War I German minelaying submarine (also known as a U-boat) is resurfacing on the coast of Wissant near Calais over a century after it was abandoned and scuttled by its 26-sailor crew before they surrendered to the French, the BBC reported on Saturday.

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According to the BBC, the ship was largely buried in sand by the 1930s, though it tends to make an appearance every few years for a brief period of time:

Since December, two sections of the submarine have been visible at low tide about 330ft (100m) from the dunes.

“The wreck is visible briefly every two to three years, depending on the tides and the wind that leads to sand movements, but a good gust of wind and the wreck will disappear again,” said Mayor of Wissant Bernard Bracq.

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A local tour guide, Vincent Schmitt, told the BBC that the wreck is usually “mostly silted and therefore invisible,” but this is the first time he could recall that so much of it has come to the top.

The submarine had departed from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium and met its end while attempting to lay mines near Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre, per the BBC. According to uboat.net, UC-61 made five patrols, sinking 12 ships (one of them a warship) and damaging three others (one of which was also a warship): 

Ran aground in heavy fog near Wissant (between Calais and Griz Nez) at 50°54’N, 1°40’E. Blown in two by the crew to prevent use by the Allies. 26 survivors (No casualties).

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In April 2018, search teams discovered a World War II-era German submarine rumored to have taken top-ranking Nazi Party officials to South America after the destruction of the Third Reich, the advanced Type XXI model U-3523, under 403 feet (123 meters) of water along the Danish coast. Though (quite unsubstantiated) rumors persisted that the ship carried a hoard of gold or the bodies of missing Nazis, the ship is a protected war grave and would be hard to study even with remotely operated vehicles, meaning any secrets it carried have likely gone to its watery grave. In 2017, search teams found both a sunken World War I-era Australian submarine whose sinking remains a mystery as well as another Nazi U-boat that sunk in 1942.

[BBC]

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