On April 10, 1940, a Nazi ship sunk the British submarine HMS Tarpon along with the 50 men onboard. The story of this event has been lost to the sea for some 76 years, but now marine archaeologists have used sonograms to finally discover the location of the wreck and the story of its final day.
It was discovered 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the coast of Denmark in March by Gert Normann Andersen, owner of a Danish war museum, and UK marine archaeologist, Dr Innes McCartney. Just recently, Danish TV channel DR3 showed the world the submarine for the first time in a live broadcast.
Images obtained through a sonogram show that the 84-meter (275 feet) submarine was lying on the seabed at a depth of 40 meters (130 feet). The images of the T-class submarine, a type of diesel-electric submarine used during the Second World War, make the vessel look in remarkably good shape. However, a snoop around by some divers told a different story.
The Guardian reports the divers discovered the sub was in tatters, with its torpedo tubes empty and many of its hatches left open. Although this suggests there was a last-ditch attempt to escape the plummeting submarine, it’s believed all 50 British crewmen were killed. They also found the seabed around the wreck was scarred with craters from depth charges (anti-submarine weapons).
German records seem to pair well with this evidence. They show that a submarine fired two torpedoes at an armed German merchant ship supplying weapons to Nazi-occupied Norway. Unfortunately for the British submarine, their shots missed and the ship was able to drop depth charges, which succeeded in sinking the submarine within hours.
“It looked very bad. They had depth charged it on several occasions. The damage was so severe behind the conning tower it would have flooded in seconds,” Dr McCartney told the Guardian.
McCartney added that the British Ministry of Defence should help protect the sites of sunken submarines from fishing trawlers or industrial projects. “After all,” he said, “they are the tombs of British sailors.”