Marine biologists, military historians, and film buffs are having a rare moment of shared interest, after the discovery of a World War Two-era Nazi submarine.
This particular model of U-boat has become the archetypal Nazi sub in many people's imaginations following its immortalization in film and literature. The identical sister ship of U-581 was featured in the 1981 war film Das Boot. The Nazi submarine in Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark was also modeled on this sister sub, as Gizmodo first highlighted.
Although this sub and its sister have an impressive showreel, the real story behind this U-boat is almost as grand as the films they helped inspire.
Thanks to sonar imaging by Portuguese authorities and the German research ship LULA1000, the wreckage was found 900 meters (2,950 feet) deep on the seabed around the Azores island, Pico, a remote land 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal.
The German submarine is a 67-meter-long (220 feet) VIIC U-boat, known as U-581. Naval records show that the sub was sunk in the early hours of February 2, 1942, following a depth-charge from the British destroyer HMS Westcott. Four of the crew died from the blast and 41 were captured as prisoners of war. Amazingly, one man – believed to be Officer Walter Sitek – managed to swim for five hours to reach land, where he was rescued and smuggled back to Germany.
After lying on the seabed for nearly 75 years, the wreck has now become a hotbed for marine vegetation, fish, and corals. Marine biologists are now eager to get better images and conduct further research on the area to try to understand the reef that has grown up around it remarkably quick for a lightless deep-sea environment. Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, the German company behind the discovery, will use further modern imaging technology to shed light on the wreck over the coming years.