Sunday, February 12, 2006

 

Expert: Raising U-boat pricey

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The Chronicle Herald
By Chris Lambie
February 06, 2006



Phillip Wood, second from right, stands on the German
submarine U-190 after it surrendered in 1945. Two years
later, the sub was sunk by the Canadian navy off Chebucto
Head, near where the HMCS Esquimalt lies after it was sunk
by the German U-boat.


German sub sunk two years after sinking final Canadian warship in 1945

The cost of raising a German U-boat sunk off Chebucto Head would probably be prohibitive, says a former submariner who once probed the possibility.

A marine archeologist announced last week that he plans to start hunting for U-190 this spring. A local historian has suggested the German sub, sunk by the Canadian navy in 1947, be salvaged for a museum display. That idea was examined three decades ago by a group of experts who eventually abandoned the scheme.

"We went into the details of how she could be raised because she was quite deep," said Phillip Wood, who took command of U-190 after it surrendered to Canadian warships off Newfoundland.

"We contacted a Dutch salvage company that had the heavy-lifting gear. . . . They came up with figures which indicated it would cost millions and millions of dollars."

On April 16, 1945, U-190 sank the last Canadian warship lost in the Second World War. It torpedoed HMCS Esquimalt nine kilometres off Halifax. Forty-four of the minesweeper’s 70-man crew died of exposure. The sub surrendered a month later, and the navy used it for training for two years before sinking it near Esquimalt’s wreck.

"She was sunk as target practice," said Mr. Wood. "She was shelled, she might have been bombed and might have been depth-charged. But altogether, considering the position and the condition she might be in, it was thought that there’s no way that this could be raised satisfactorily or even restored as a museum piece. So we dropped the idea."

Several warships and aircraft fired at the sub on Oct. 21, 1947, said Frank Robertson, who was an able seaman on HMCS New Liskeard when the minesweeper helped send U-190 to the bottom.

But many of the shots fired over the course of about 10 minutes "missed her altogether," he said.

"I would think she would be in pretty good condition," he said. "The bulk of her would be in good shape."

To this day, Mr. Robertson can’t fathom why the navy sank U-190 instead of putting her in a museum.

"The crew aboard our ship was disappointed," he said. "I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they bring her to the surface."

In 1993, a German U-boat sunk on the last day of the Second World War was pulled off the bottom of the Kattegat Sea, between Denmark and Sweden. The project to haul U-534 up from under 67 metres of water cost a Danish newspaper publisher $3.6 million.

It’s "completely premature" to get into how much money it would take to put U-190 on display, said Dan Conlin, curator of marine history at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

"Nobody has any idea what shape the hull is in, and that’s where your costs begin," Mr. Conlin said.

"Add to that the cost of raising it and the long-term conservation costs. It would be a huge bill. But right now, we just have no idea what that would be."

The potential value as an attraction would be quite high because there are only four U-boats on display around the world.

"We’ve had over 23 million people in the boat since 1954," said Keith Gill, former curator of the U-505 exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

About 300,000 visitors walk through the U-boat every year, Mr. Gill said.

"It was always envisioned that it would be a very big draw and it always has been," he said.

"There’s always a fascination with submarine life, and German submarines tend to grab more attention than any others."

Setting up the U-boat in its own dedicated building at the Chicago museum cost $35 million US.

"For us it was a gigantic commitment and probably the biggest single exhibit cost that we’ll have for many, many, many years," Mr. Gill said. "But there was no question about whether it was important to do. And if we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right."


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