The wreck of a First World War German submarine has been located a century after she was intentionally sunk in United States waters.
A team of specialist divers secretly traced the final resting place of U-111. Commissioned in 1917 by the German navy, the submarine was responsible for the sinking of three Allied merchant ships in the final year of the war.
Following the Armistice, almost all seaworthy U-boats were sent to the British port of Harwich to be scrapped. However, six submarines, including U-111, were sent to the US as part of a campaign to promote the sale of government-issued Victory Bonds.
Under Lt Commander Freeland A Daubin, U-111 sailed to New York in April 1919 – nearly sinking after a soluble plug secretly installed by the Germans gave out during the voyage.
After taking part in the Victory Bonds tour down the eastern coast of the United States, the submarine was intentionally sunk out in the Atlantic in the summer of 1922.
A century later, experienced ‘technical diver’ Erik Petkovi led a successful effort to locate the wreck.Technical divers explore shipwrecks beyond the reach of recreational explorers. There are 13 U-boats in American waters believed to be within their reach. Records indicated that U-111 was 1,600 feet under the surface, too remote even for technical divers. But a side-scan sonar revealed the submarine was actually at around 400 feet.
Petkovic identified the wreck’s location through the study of old ‘hang logs’, locations of where fisher-men reported snagging on their nets. A large cluster of snagging suggested an obstruction such as a shipwreck.
After identifying the submarine’s probable resting place off the Virginia Coast, a 45-foot R/V Explorer vessel was sent out in June this year, from which a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was dropped overboard to confirm the find.
Petkovic and his team are keeping the submarine’s exact location a secret until better weather allows divers to undertake a close inspection next year.
Having located the ship, Petkovic has since turned his attention to finding the descendants of Daubin and his crew. ‘We’re always trying to bring it back to somebody, bring the history back to folks who may not know what their family member did,’ he told National Geographic.
‘I mean, Daubin was a hero. The story of U-111 should be a movie.’