Western Link Team Finds Legendary WWI U-Boat?

A GBP 1 billion project to lay one of the world’s largest subsea power cables, connecting Scotland and England, has led to a ”historic wartime discovery” which could finally help solve one of WWI’s strangest naval mysteries, ScottishPower reports. 

Marine engineers working on the Western Link project, a joint venture between ScottishPower and National Grid which will take renewable power from Scotland to homes and businesses in England and Wales, have found the wreck of a German U-boat while surveying the sea bed off the coast of Wigtownshire.

Sonar images show the 100-year-old vessel largely intact and attempts to identify the wreck have led experts to conclude that it may be that of UB-85, a submarine that according to folklore was attacked by a sea monster while prowling Scotland’s coastline towards the end of World War I.

Official reports from the time tell how UB-85 was caught on the surface during the day of April 30 1918 and sunk by a British patrol boat – the HMS Coreopsis.

“The images we get back from the subsea scans are incredibly detailed, but we obviously need to be aware of what lies beneath before we can start laying a power cable,” Peter Roper, of Western Link partner ScottishPower, said.

”In all the years I have been building power lines, I can say that this is the most extraordinary discovery. The story behind the submarine is also fascinating. I am probably on the side of the historians who believe that the capture of the vessel was more straightforward than a sea monster attack. ‘A sea monster attacked my submarine’ is maybe one of the most fanciful excuses of all time. Thankfully we have had no monster-related health and safety incidents on the project yet.”

Map showing location of submarine off the south west coast of Scotland. Source: ScottishPower.
Map showing location of submarine off the south west coast of Scotland. Source: ScottishPower.

The Western Link subsea marine cable is around 385km long, the longest of its type in the world, and when in place it will run from Ardneil Bay in North Ayrshire in Scotland to the Wirral peninsula in north west England.

The submarine wreck is approximately 120m north-west of the centre of the planned cable route, off the Stranraer coast. The survey shows the vessel is largely intact and is approximately 45m long, with debris spilling out of the stern end.

Graham Edwards, of Western Link partner National Grid, said: “The Western Link is a very significant project for the UK and has required careful planning in all aspects, but particularly in the laying of high voltage cables in the sea, where we are working hard to minimise our impact on the environment. During construction we take great care over archaeology, whether on land or at sea, and it’s always exciting to record a significant find and help to shed new light on our history – especially one with such a good tale involved!”