Thursday, February 15, 2024

GERMAN BATTLECRUISER PRINZ EUGEN

 15 FEBRUARY 2024: Mid-February folks and it's still winter! (well, not so much here in "winter quarters," but in lots of places here in the U.S. and abroad... Have faith, though, I have it on good authority (a buck toothed rodent) that spring is going to appear rather sooner than later! Fingers crossed! American football season is done and time can hang heavy til golf, boating, etc all get underway. Of course, the America's Cup is tuning up off the coast of Barcelona, so there's that to look forward to. Maybe we will offer an update on those activities in these pages in a month or so. Also some potentially exciting news on a story we posted a while back, on Amelia Earhart's disappearance. For today, however, the bizarre tale of the surrendered German cruiser, Prinz Eugen.  From Slash Gear Technology:

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To say the end of World War II was hectic would be an understatement. Europe and a large portion of the Pacific Islands were left in shambles as Allied forces scrambled to pick up the pieces and salvage what was left to rebuild both areas of the world. On May 7th, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered to Allied Forces in France and surrendered to Soviet forces on May 8th in Berlin. As a result of the surrender, the former Third Reich handed over tanks, guns, ships, research personnel and all manner of equipment to the Allies.

One such piece of surrendered equipment was the Prinz Eugen, a 697-foot Admiral Hipper Class German Heavy Cruiser named after Prince Eugene of Savoy, a 17th and 18th century Austrian general. When it was under command of the Nazi Kriegsmarine, the Prinz Eugen was fairly well known to the Allies. It had participated in the Battle of the North Atlantic, the naval engagement that saw the tragic loss of the British Royal Navy's HMS Hood and eventually the sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck. Additionally, the vessel fired its guns at Soviet targets in support of Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht operations At the end of the war, the Prinz Eugen had the distinction of being one of the few German warships that didn't become an artificial reef. 


Initially, the warship was foisted upon the Royal Navy right as the war ended. But it never saw combat on the Atlantic. It was destined for something much stranger.

The former Kriegsmarine vessel was put into a warship lottery of sorts. There it languished until December of 1945 when the U.S. Navy won the ship. Shortly afterwards, it was given the illustrious title of "unclassified miscellaneous vessel USS Prinz Eugen IX-300." With a fancy warship now in the possession of the U.S. Navy, you'd think it would be used to reverse engineer and build upon existing designs. But you'd be only partly correct. The sonar and fire control systems were removed for testing along with the seaplanes it carried.

But much like a Craigslist Mercedes years past its prime, the Prinz Eugen was nearly impossible to keep operational, even with a crew consisting of former members of the German Kriegsmarine who had served on the ship. The boilers that provided steam to propel the ship reportedly failed regularly and it was more pain than it was worth to keep above water. It was then that higher ups in command decided that the Prinz Eugen would end its career with a bang. It would be used for atomic testing.

Operation Crossroads was a test of nuclear weapons on a naval fleet at sea near the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific. The fleet was comprised of 90 vessels from the American Navy and captured Imperial Japanese and Kriegsmarine warships, the Prinz Eugen was inducted into the target fleet after being towed from Philadelphia. The first test was conducted on July 1st, 1946 when a 23-kiloton nuclear bomb named ABLE was detonated. Perhaps miraculously, the Prinz Eugen remained afloat.

 A second weapon named BAKER, also a 23-kiloton warhead, was detonated on July 25th, 1946. Yet, despite experiencing the not one, but two nuclear blasts with yields many times greater than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end the WAR, the Prinz Eugen survived, although this time damaged.

Eventually the warship succumbed to its wounds and unceremoniously capsized on December 22nd, 1946. The official cause of the Prinz Eugen's demise was getting nuked twice. But even nuclear hellfire isn't the end of the Prinz Eugen's story.

After capsizing near a coral reef near Enubui Island, part of the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands, the vessel was officially offloaded to the Marshall Islands. But the saga still isn't over. As one might expect, the citizens of the island chain weren't keen on having to deal with a nearly eight decade old battleship full of environmentally hazardous substances just sitting off their coast.

In 2010, the Republic of the Marshall Islands asked the U.S. Navy for help and it was happy to oblige. By 2018, a plan was enacted to siphon out remaining fuel from the 173 tanks onboard the Prinz Eugen. U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Tim Emge was tapped to lead the process of removing the trapped oil through a procedure known as hot tapping, essentially drilling multiple holes all over the capsized vessel.

Lt. Commander Emge said of the operation: "Hot tapping allows us to safely tie into the many tanks without leakage by creating a secure opening to place the valve, hot tap tool and pipe for pumping from the highest point on the tank. We were able to successfully, and most importantly safely, conduct over a hundred hot taps throughout the operation." Overall, around 250,000 gallons of fuel was removed from the wreck.


 Today, nearly 77 years after the Prinz Eugen rolled over in the shallow waters of the Pacific, it's still there. It is a popular site for recreational divers. 

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So, should you be a diver and find yourself in the Marshall Islands and specifically, Enubui Island, take a look. Might be worth seeing! And keep a weather eye out for posts about the America's Cup run up and the news about Earhart's plane.

Until next time,

                                                  Fair Winds,

                                                       Old Salt


Monday, January 29, 2024

SHIPWRECKS FOUND: PART 3

 29 January 2024: Well, that wraps up January 2024. Playoff football (American football) are over and the teams selected for the "Super Bowl" in a couple of weeks. Weather is doing it's wintry thing and generally acting strange - warm and cold, snow and rain and a little sun (from time to time). This will likely be the final edition of Shipwrecks Found as it appears the interest in the first episode has waned over the subsequent second; so with that in mind, we'll post one more and call it a day. Hope you enjoy. 

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1998: Batu Hitam

 

  • Year lost: 830
  • Location where found: Off Belitung Island, Indonesia
  • Found by: Local fishermen

Batu Hitam was an ancient Arabian dhow discovered in 1998 off the Indonesian coast by local fishermen. It was likely traveling from China to Africa along what was called the Maritime Silk Route when it sank, carrying what may be the largest collection of Tang Dynasty artifacts ever discovered – more than 60,000 pieces. Valued at about $90 million, the treasures recovered from the shipwreck are mostly ceramics and pottery, including bowls, spice jars, and funeral urns.

1998: Esmeralda

  • Year lost: 1503
  • Location where found: Off the coast of Oman
  • Found by: Team led by David Mearns

The shipwreck believed to be the Esmeralda, part of the fleet of famed explorer Vasco da Gama was found off the coast of Oman in 1998. It is considered to be the oldest wreck discovered from the Age of Discovery. Among the artifacts found were a ship’s bell, a Portuguese coin minted for trade with India, and stone cannonballs engraved with what appear to be the initials of Vincente SodrĂ©, da Gama’s maternal uncle and the commander of the Esmeralda.

1999: RMS Carpathia


           Year lost:
1917 

         Location where found: West of Land’s End

  • Found by: Argosy International Ltd

The British passenger liner RMS Carpathia is remembered for rescuing survivors from the Titanic in 1912. Unfortunately, the ship would meet its own doom in World War I, when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1917. The vessel was attacked as part of a convoy traveling from Liverpool to Boston and five people died. The wreck of Carpathia was found in 1999, by Argosy International Ltd., in 600 feet of water, about 185 miles west of Land’s End, England.

2022: Endurance 

      Year lost: 1915 

 Location where found: Weddell Sea, Antarctica

  • Found by: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust

The Endurance, the lost vessel of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, was discovered at the bottom of the Weddell Sea in March. The ship was crushed by sea ice and sank in 1915, forcing Shackleton and his men to escape on foot and in small boats. All of the crew survived the ordeal. The demise of the ship was chronicled by filmmaker Frank Hurley. The Endurance was found by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust. The wreck is a designated monument under the International Antarctic Treaty and is not to be disturbed. No physical artifacts have been brought to the surface.

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There are many more which, given the recent lack of excitement, we opted not to post about. They include many of the U.S. and Japanese warships located and photographed by the late Paul Allen's research group, and a few treasure ships found by Odyssey (a treasure seeking commercial outfit). Some we have previously posted about in this blog.

Hope you enjoyed what you've seen here; let us know in your comments. Stay warm; Spring is probably coming - sooner or later.

Until next time,

                                   Fair Winds,   

                                          Old Salt