A project examining shipwrecks from the First World War around the coast of Wales has pictured for the first time a German U-boat that was sunk on Christmas Day, 1917.
There are more than 100 wrecks from the war in Welsh waters and some are being surveyed for the Forgotten U-boat War project, which began in 2016.
Backed with £400,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project involves Bangor University’s Centre for Applied Marine Sciences, experts from the Nautical Archaeology Society and the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales. The survey findings are being shared with maritime museums across Wales, including at Porthmadog, Nefyn, Swansea and Pembroke Dock among others.
Dr Michael James Roberts, of the Bangor University Centre, manages the Seacams 2 sonar project which is being used to discover what happens to undersea structures such as shipwrecks over time, as well as the environment.
The findings of the project will provide useful information to the energy generation industry, which is looking to harness tidal power by creating devices such as underwater kites. In October, the project said that so far, about a dozen wreck sites have been analysed. These include:
German submarine U-87: Between May and November, 1917, the submarine sank or damaged 24 British and Allied vessels.
On Dec 25, 1917, off Bardsey Island, the U-boat attacked a convoy heading into Liverpool and torpedoed and sank the cargo liner Agberi, 4,821grt, of Elder, Dempster & Co, of Liverpool, returning home from West Africa. She had a crew of 54 and carried nine passengers.
The U-boat was then rammed by the Royal Navy Flower class sloop Buttercup but she did not sink and the Royal Navy PC class patrol boat PC-56 dropped two depth charges which forced her to the surface and she was then rammed by the patrol boat, and this time sank with the loss of all 44 crew.
Between May 23 and her loss, the U-87 sank 22 ships and damaged another two. Dr Roberts said a survey boat carrying the sonar imaging equipment generated the image of the U-87. “It was a moving and thoughtprovoking experience when the sonar image appeared on the computer screen for the first time,” he said.
Steamer Damao: The Portuguese-owned cargo ship Damao, 5,668grt, was bound from New York to Liverpool when she was lost on Apr 28, 1918, some 12 miles off Bardsey Island. The ship was torpedoed by the German submarine U-91. Among the cargo were 472 tons of lead and 676 tons of spelter.
The sonar imaging has revealed four craters on the seabed next to the wreck. One theory is that the site was hit by depth charges in the Second World War after a warship had wrongly identified the wreck as a German U-boat.
The Damao had been built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, on the Tyne in 1911 as the Brisbane of the German-Australia Steamship Co, of Hamburg, and operated on its scheduled services between Hamburg and Australia.