Sunken WWII submarine to be raised

The crew on U-864, 60 years ago. Poto: Christian Klambauer

The crew on submarine U-864 60 years ago. Poto: Christian Klambauer

Oslo – Environmental groups and inhabitants in a small fishing community Friday welcomed the Norwegian government’s decision to raise the World War II wreck of a German submarine loaded with 65 tons of mercury. The government late Thursday announced it had opted to raise the 87-metre-long submarine rather than encase it, reports Earthtimes.org.

Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Helga Pedersen cited “the concerns of the coastal population and fisheries industry.”

The sediment around the wreck was to be capped, she added.

The wreck of U-864 was found in 2003. Since the discovery, Norwegian authorities have investigated various options of raising or encasing the wreck since the cargo posed a potential threat to the marine environment.

The wreck rests 150 metres below the sea surface near the island Fedje, just north of the coastal city of Bergen. The wreck is also regarded as a war grave.

All 73 onboard died when a British submarine torpedoed U-864 in February 1945 as it was heading from Germany to Japan with war material including 65 tons of liquid mercury in steel containers.

Local activists in Fedje said January 29 would likely become an unofficial flag day and posted congratulatory messages on the social networking site Facebook.

The environmental group Bellona also welcomed the government’s decision and had recommended raising the wreck.

“This means a lot for the coastal population as well as Norway’s reputation,” Kristin Handeland, head of the town council in Fedje, told broadcaster NRK.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration in November recommended encasing the wreck, estimating it would cost 1 billion kroner (144 million dollars) to raise the wreck.

Norwegian consultancy firm Det Norske Veritas (DNV) that was commissioned to investigate the consequences of raising the wreck concluded that the encasement of the wreck and sea bottom was deemed to pose the least risk to personnel and also had the least short and long-term environmental impact.

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