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The LULA 1000 submersible finds a missing German U-boat

© Rebikoff-Niggeler-Stiftung

The LULA 1000 research submarine has made a find that will enthrall marine biologists and historians alike: On the sea bed off the Azores islands, it has discovered the German U-boat U 581.

In the early hours of February 2, 1942, the sister ship of the world-famous U96 film U-boat was sunk by its own captain. 42 crew members survived the evacuation at the time, four men lost their lives. Since then, it had been considered lost – until two explorers made the discovery in their deep-sea submersible with a PLEXIGLAS® dome. They discovered the 67 meter-long and almost 800 ton-heavy hull – broken into two parts – at a depth of 870 meters off Pico Island in the Azores.

U-boat with dome of PLEXIGLAS®

These findings have been made possible by a PLEXIGLAS® dome developed by Röhm for the LULA 1000 submersible. Thanks to its special properties, such as having the same refraction index as water, the 14 cm-thick dome is almost invisible under water, meaning that high-resolution, distortion-free videos can be taken even at great depths. Filipe Mora Porteiro, director of Marine Affairs for the regional government of the Azores and himself a marine biologist, was impressed by the first pictures of the wreck: “I’m astonished by the large number and rapid growth of the corals.” There has so far been very little research on the rate at which the many species of coral reefs develop in deep waters.

Röhm supports the Rebikoff-Niggeler-Stiftung

The discovery of U 581 is due to a husband-and-wife team of German explorers, Kirsten und Joachim Jakobsen. They are the driving force behind the LULA 1000, which is owned by the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation. Röhm has been supporting the research projects of the Foundation since 2013. The Jakobsens are in great demand as consultants for deep-sea video recordings for marine biologists and television stations throughout the world.

They began research on the U 581 a few years ago. They talked with witnesses, studied the records and were able to define an area in which the wreck should be located. Using sonar technology, they took an image of the seabed in the area in question between the islands of Faial and Pico in the Azores. They found the wreck during the very first dive in the fall of 2016 and began shooting the film with the LULA 1000.

The explorers

During diving trips Joachim Jakobsen is responsible for operating the boat. Kirsten Jakobsen takes care of the camera work and logs navigation data. This means that all data and photos gathered during the dive can later be linked to the respective position and depth data to understand where exactly the data was collected.

© Christoph Bauer / Röhm GmbH

The expedition

The Lula is a submersible that was specifically developed for exploring the habitat of deep-sea squids. The original design was provided by the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, based on more than ten years of experience with the previous model, Lula 500.

© Christoph Bauer / Röhm GmbH

The boat

The Lula 1000 is 7.50 meters long, 1.65 meters wide and 2.65 meters high. She can accommodate three people on her dive missions. As classified by Germanische Lloyd Hamburg, the submersible is approved for depths up to 1,000 meters.

© Dave Mothershaw / Röhm GmbH

Further recordings

On September 13, 2016 they struck lucky: From its position and the clearly visible model number (VII C) of the U-boat, U 581 could be identified with high certainty. By means of advanced lighting engineering, the Foundation plans to record more high-resolution pictures, from which a 3-D model of the submarine will be generated. Also on the cards is a TV documentary on the history and scientific value of the sunken warship.

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