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Mysterious shipwreck lies off Hatteras. Watch live as it's explored for the first time.

The World War II wreck of a German U-boat, U-701, sits in 110 feet of water off Cape Hatteras. The N.C. Aquarium at Roanoke Island will live-stream exploration of an unidentified shipwreck off Hatteras Island on June 25.
The World War II wreck of a German U-boat, U-701, sits in 110 feet of water off Cape Hatteras. The N.C. Aquarium at Roanoke Island will live-stream exploration of an unidentified shipwreck off Hatteras Island on June 25. NOAA

Guests of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island can watch in real time as scientists explore an unidentified shipwreck 40 miles off Hatteras Island on June 25.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will conduct the dive with a robotic submersible craft to be launched from the research vessel Okeanos Explorer, aquarium officials said in a release.

The shipwreck lies in about 1,000 feet of water. How and when it sank is unknown, but records show that several vessels sank in the area during World War II. During an eight-hour dive, the submersible will transmit video to the Okeanos Explorer, where crew members will look for clues such as damage from artillery or torpedoes.

“What we’re getting is a unique opportunity to witness the uncovering of a real maritime mystery,” the aquarium's associate director, Allen McDowell, said in a statement. “And NOAA has graciously allowed us to go along for the ride.”

The live stream of the exploration will be shown on a movie screen in the aquarium's Neptune's Theater on June 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Experts will be on hand to answer questions and even communicate directly with the Okeanos team. The program will be included in regular aquarium admission.

While it's unknown whether the shipwreck to be explored sank during World War II, the "Battle of the Atlantic" pitted German U-boats against Allied merchant ships and the Canadian, British and American forces that defended them. About 3,500 merchant ships went down in the Atlantic over the course of the war.

In 2016, NOAA and its partners explored a German U-boat and a passing freighter, the Nicaraguan-flagged SS Bluefields, that both went to the bottom off Cape Hatteras after a battle in 1942. The University of North Carolina's Coastal Studies Institute was to create three-dimensional models of the wrecks.

That exploration produced the sort of haunting moments that aquarium viewers might be in for on June 25.

“It goes from a page in a scientific report down to a very real place at the bottom of the ocean,” David Alberg, superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in Newport News, Va., told the Observer at the time.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender


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