Sunken Wreck Of A Nazi Warship Discovered On Seafloor Near Norway


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

A multi-beam echosounder has made a sonar scan of the wreck. Statnett/Isurvey

The sunken remains of a German warship, still ordained with the rusted symbols of the Nazi regime, has been discovered off the coast of Norway. 

The shipwreck was recently discovered by Statnett, a state-owned operator of the Norwegian power grid, some 24 kilometers (13 nautical miles) from the coastal city of Kristiansand in Southern Norway over 490 meters (1,600 feet) below sea level. Remarkably, it was seen just meters away from an undersea power cable running between Norway and Denmark.


Although the story of the ship's demise was well-known to historians, the location of the vessel has remained a mystery for 80 years. In 2017, sonar scans by Statnett engineers revealed the presence of a sunken vessel, but the precise identity of the ship was not realized until they sent down an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to inspect the wreck.

Another shot from the sonar imaging. Statnett/Isurvey

“You can find Karlsruhe's fate in history books, but no one has known exactly where the ship sunk. Moreover, it was the only large German warship that was lost during the attack on Norway with an unknown position. After all these years we finally know where the graveyard to this important warship is,” Frode Kvalø, an archaeologist and researcher at the Norwegian Maritime Museum, said in a statement by Statnett.

Known as Karlsruhe, the warship was a 174-meter (571-foot) cruiser, equipped with steam turbines and nine cannons. It was sunk on April 9, 1940, on the first day of Germany's assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War after it came under fire from a British submarine. Grainy images taken by the ROV in the murky water even show the ship was fitted with a Nazi-era swastika.

In the murky depths of the North Sea, a Nazi-era swastika can faintly be made out. Statnett/Isurvey
Cannons point out of the dark depths.Statnett/Isurvey

"When the ROV results showed us a ship that was torpedoed, we realized it was from the war. As the cannons became visible on the screen, we understood it was a huge warship. We were very excited and surprised that the wreck was so big,” added Ole Petter Hobberstad, senior project engineer at Statnett. 


Typically, big warships such as this will flip around when they sink due to their high center of gravity. Kvalø points out that this ship, however, is unusual as it remained upright “with cannons pointing menacingly into the sea.” 

While the Nazi regime is dead and buried, a legacy of its invasion of Norway still lives on. In 2018, scientists documented that the forests around Kafjord, one of the dozens of fjords along the northern coast of Norway, still contain environment damage left as a result of Tirpitz, the Nazis' biggest warship that hid in the country's northern fjords using an artificial fog created using chlorosulfuric acid.


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