Even weirder


Pat Winship

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May 8, 2001
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This happened a while ago, but I just ran into it. And it WOULD be a tanker...

Prien's Ghost?

The story of the attack by U-47 at Scapa flow did not end on the fateful day in October 1939; as recently as September 2002, almost 63 years after the event, Prien and his boat were in the news again following the rather bizarre discovery of one its torpedoes by the Norwegian tanker MV Petrotrym. The following extract is taken from The Scottish Banner, a paper published in the United States for Scottish expatriates:

"TORPEDO" - Scapa Flow, Orkneys: An oil tanker recently had a narrow escape when it was nearly hit by a German torpedo - fired 63 years ago! The missile was one of four launched by submarine U-47 to scupper the battleship 'Royal Oak' in 1939 resulting in the loss of 833 lives.

Even though it failed to hit its target, the torpedo has lain on the seabed ever since, until it recently resurfaced in the dark waters of Scapa Flow and started to drift towards the 62,000 ton Norwegian tanker 'Petrotrym' , which was at anchor. Fortunately an attentive watchman noticed the barnacle-encrusted missile and raised the alarm in time.

The 15 foot torpedo was towed away by a tug to safe waters a mile away where it was detonated by a Royal Navy bomb disposal unit. Although its warhead was missing, the Navy said that it posed a genuine threat as it still contained its chamber of compressed gas.

(Thanks to Allan F. Cameron for submitting this article)

Following the removal of the torpedo to Scapa Pier on 9 September, Captain Nigel Mills, the Director of Orkney Island Council's Harbours Department, offered the following explanation for its sudden reappearance:

"It is difficult to state at this point exactly why this object decided to surface now. We did have an exceptionally low tide on Monday and it is possible that this disturbed the torpedo and allowed it to surface. Compressed air within a chamber inside the torpedo can force them to the surface in the way this one apparently did".

(Details from the Orkney Islands Council web site)
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Fortunately an attentive watchman noticed the barnacle-encrusted missile and raised the alarm in time.<<

Very fortunately, Pat. That beast could have really ruined somebody's day, even with the warhead missing. My bet is it's still down there. I just hope some intrepid diver with more curiousity then good sense doesn't mess with it if he finds it.
 

Pat Winship

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May 8, 2001
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The Royal Navy towed it out and blew it up, but there's probably one more down there for any diver that wants a Darwin award. Prien missed with two of the torpedoes he fired. This was one. Eep
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>but there's probably one more down there for any diver that wants a Darwin award.<<

Which makes me wonder when there's going to be a "winner" of this....errrrrr....coveted distinction. There are a lot of old sunken warships out there still loaded with live ordnance, and most torpedos fired in combat actually missed. Plenty of opportunities out there.

German torpedos of this period used an explosive filler called Hexanite. I don't know how stable this stuff is, but I doubt it improves with age.

See http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WTGER_WWII.htm for information on German torpedos.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Hopefully not me darlin' son who's making serious plans to get his scuba certification.<<

Somehow, I have a feeling that your boy knows better. You'd see to it that he did.
wink.gif
 

Grant Carman

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Jun 19, 2006
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One of my neighbours was a diver with the Royal Navy who specialized in sunken ordinance, and dealing with them. Needless to say, you need nerves of steel, as the job was very very dangerous.
My hats of to him, as I couldn't do it, no matter what the pay.
 

Pat Winship

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May 8, 2001
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Well, Mike, he's told me that I should not expect any china off the Andrea Doria, ever. He's interested in knowing what's down there, but he's not the kind to take too many risks finding out.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>He's interested in knowing what's down there, but he's not the kind to take too many risks finding out.<<

Considering how many people that ship has claimed over the years, he's very wise not to. I still remember the last notes I exchanged with David Bright encouraging him to stay safe just before he went out to the Doria for that last dive. He was a highly experienced diver and he still didn't make it back alive.
 
J

Jeff Brebner

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Along with the Empress, the Doria is one of the most dangerous wreck dives in the world. I'm just a weekend warrior - I'd never try either one.