‘The Most Intact U-Boat Wreck I’ve Ever Seen’ U-Boat Hunter Dr Innes McCartney

 
U-778. Photo: Dr Innes McCartney
U-778. Photo: Dr Innes McCartney
 
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The submarine sank some 16 nautical miles  18 mi) northeast of Malin Head, in Ireland, where it lay for the next five decades.

Unlike the Allied Navy, Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine relied to a great extent on submarine activities, both in the sheer destructiveness of the firepower as well for the psychological effect that this invisible threat produced.

While relying on the Unrestricted Submarine Warfare Doctrine, Hitler’s forces managed to disrupt the supply chain between the U.S. and Great Britain.

Although in the later years of the war this supremacy was overturned in favor of the Allies, nevertheless the production of these underwater steel giants went on more or less continuously until the last months of the war.

German submarine U-778 was a Type VIIC U-boat. The one on the picture is Type VIIC/41 U-995. Photo: Darkone / CC BY-SA 2.5
German submarine U-778 was a Type VIIC U-boat. The one on the picture is Type VIIC/41 U-995. Photo: Darkone / CC BY-SA 2.5

Consequently, it should come as no surprise that some of these U-Boats never saw much action before they were captured and scuttled with haste during the Allied sweep through Western Europe.

https://youtu.be/MqllihZqzf4

Such is the case of U-778 which entered service on February 28, 1945, and was stationed in the port of Horten, Norway.

This was the dive when I discovered the U-boat which is probably U778 on July 22, 2001.
This was the dive when I discovered the U-boat which is probably U778 on July 22, 2001.

Under the command of Captain Lieutenant Ralf Jürs, it set sail on March 4, on a 23-day long routine patrol mission.

Aft deck pristine too (Innes McCartney)
Aft deck pristine too (Innes McCartney)

After finishing its assignment and docking at Bergen, Norway, it became clear that the war wasn’t going to last long. The rumors of Allied forces crossing the Rhine and the Red Army just kilometers away from the suburbs of Berlin gave clear signs that Nazi Germany was finished.

Conning tower recedes as the current blasts me down the wreck (Innes McCartney).
Conning tower recedes as the current blasts me down the wreck (Innes McCartney).

Soon enough, the port of Bergen fell into Allied hands. The U-778 and almost all the other Kriegsmarine vessels that were captured were sent to Britain to be scuttled as part of Operation Deadlight.

Ripping current coming over the wreck meant I was crawling (literally) towards the wreck. Outer torpedo doors closed and intact – very rare (Innes McCartney).
Ripping current coming over the wreck meant I was crawling (literally) towards the wreck. Outer torpedo doors closed and intact – very rare (Innes McCartney).

Later that year, while on its way to the scrapping yard, U-778 started to leak water. It foundered and disconnected from its towing ship. The submarine sank some 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi) northeast of Malin Head, in Ireland, where it lay for the next five decades.

The line links our shotline to the wreck. It was dragging in the current, and we nearly missed the site entirely. The entire U-boat looks brand new! (Innes McCartney).
The line links our shotline to the wreck. It was dragging in the current, and we nearly missed the site entirely. The entire U-boat looks brand new! (Innes McCartney).

Since the Allied command had to deal with issues such as making Europe liveable again, the matter of a German submarine that sank while on its way to be destroyed anyway proved a mundane task that demanded no attention.

The U-boat’s snorkel mast in the deck recess with hydraulic elevator piston behind (Innes McCartney).
The U-boat’s snorkel mast in the deck recess with hydraulic elevator piston behind (Innes McCartney).

However, in 2001, Dr. Innes McCartney, a distinguished nautical archaeologist from Britain, rediscovered the shipwreck and started examining it, revealing one of the best-preserved submarines from that era ever to be discovered.

The piston in front of the conning tower. Even the flange pipe which links to the snorkel when it is erected is still in place, along with the spray deflector (Innes McCartney).
The piston in front of the conning tower. Even the flange pipe which links to the snorkel when it is erected is still in place, along with the spray deflector (Innes McCartney).

This is partly due to the fact that most captured German submarines were either scuttled as part of Operation Deadlight or were used extensively for target practice in the years to come.

The Bridge is covered in a net, but inside all the bridge equipment is still where it should be – incredible! (Innes McCartney).
The Bridge is covered in a net, but inside all the bridge equipment is still where it should be – incredible! (Innes McCartney).

In 2007, Derry City Council, which holds rights over the sunken U-778 announced an excavation of the shipwreck together with the construction of a maritime museum. However, the submarine remains on the seabed as the plans for building the museum have been delayed until spring 2020.

By the port side of the tower the snorkel flange (bottom) and collar (top) are still in place. I have never seen this before or since (Innes McCartney).
By the port side of the tower the snorkel flange (bottom) and collar (top) are still in place. I have never seen this before or since (Innes McCartney).

 

Foredeck largely intact with conning tower in the distance. Greg crawling along the wreck towards me. By now, the current was running really quickly (Innes McCartney).
Foredeck largely intact with conning tower in the distance. Greg crawling along the wreck towards me. By now, the current was running really quickly (Innes McCartney).

 

The base of the bridge shows the conning tower hatch is open and the main control pillar (left) is still in place (Innes McCartney).
The base of the bridge shows the conning tower hatch is open and the main control pillar (left) is still in place (Innes McCartney).

Read another story from us: Predators of the Seas: Life Inside a U-Boat – In 41 Images

Open mushroom air intake (Innes McCartney).
Open mushroom air intake (Innes McCartney).

You can follow Innes on Facebook, Twitter and you can buy many of his books via Amazon

Dr. Innes McCartney
Dr. Innes McCartney

Dr. Innes McCartney – Nautical Archaeologist, Naval Historian and 26 years a Wreck Diver.

 
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