- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2008

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) | Scientists from the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary are part of an offshore expedition to survey the wrecks of three German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina.

Researchers hope to document the condition of the three U-boats sunk by U.S. forces in 1942 during World War II, which are in an area known as “the Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The subs lie at depths of less than 130 feet and have become popular spots for recreational diving.

“This expedition is the first part of a larger multiyear project to research and document a number of historically significant shipwrecks tragically lost during World War II, including U.S. and British naval vessels and merchant marine vessels,” said David W. Alberg, superintendent of the Newport News-based sanctuary.

“The information collected during this expedition will be crucial to efforts to preserve these historic sites,” said Mr. Alberg, the expedition’s leader.

The research team will survey and photograph the visible sections of three German submarines during the three-week-long expedition. Scientists also will study marine life found at the wreck sites, which are protected as war graves under U.S. and international law.

Mr. Alberg said two of the vessels have sustained significant damage from salvage operators and souvenir hunters since they were discovered more than three decades ago. The third sub is relatively intact, but also has begun to show signs of damage from illegal salvage attempts. Recreational divers discovered its location in 1989, then rediscovered the wreck again in 2004 after it was covered by shifting bottom sand.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is conducting the survey in partnership with numerous national and local agencies, which are providing both technical expertise and logistical support for the expedition.

The second phase of the project is scheduled for summer 2009. It will focus primarily on the wrecks of Allied ships sunk off the Outer Banks during the Battle of the Atlantic.

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