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Experts: German U-864 Submarine Should Be Entombed to Contain Mercury Cargo

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OSLO, Norway -- Based on field studies performed during the past three years, the Norwegian Coastal Administration recommends encasing the wreckage of U-864 and covering the sediments surrounding the wreck. Such an encasement would prevent the mercury in the wreck from leaking into the marine environment.

World-wide, about 30 large-scale encasing and coverage operations of mercury contaminated debris have been performed in the past 20 years. Extensive documentation shows that these measures have been effective. Encasing and covering the wreck are regarded as permanent environmental protection measures. The Norwegian Coastal Administration recommends covering the wreckage with a special type of sand as an absorption layer, and reinforcing the upper layer to prevent erosion.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration does not recommend raising the wreck of the U-864 due to a high operational risk and the considerable risk of further dispersal of the pollutant.

The German submarine U-864 was sunk on 9 February 1945, on its way from Germany via Norway to Japan with a cargo of war material. According to historical documents, the submarine was carrying about 65 tonnes of metallic (liquid) mercury, stored in steel containers. The wreck of the U-864 was found by the Royal Norwegian Navy in March 2003. It lies at a depth of approx. 150 metres, about 2 nautical miles west of Fedje.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of UnderwaterTimes.com, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

8 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

The "bury the problem and hope it goes away" attitude seems to be a common malaise, usually induced by monetary considerations. Yes there is undoubtedly on site contamination but I would suspect that most is from flasks ruptured during the torpedo detonation that sank the boat. With due reverence to the fact that the boat is a grave, and the sensibilities of surviving relatives, would it not be more responsible to mitigate any future threat by removing the remaining flasks and/or the wreck. Both of which are perfectly achievable, burial is merely postponing the inevitable for someone else to deal with. On another point; a recent British tv broadcast about the wreck was not categorical about the mercury being carried as cargo. This lack of definition, I fear, will reinforce the common myth held by less intelligent divers that U-Boots always carried mercury as moveable ballast. Only a few boats ever carried such a cargo and I believe all those lost are now account
   comment# 1   - Steve Liscoe · Scotland · Jan 11, 2007 @ 9:14am

I have to admit Im no expert in this field but I do tend to agree with Steve Liscoe and wonder why it and others like it such as several large ships and tankers around New Ginea cant be pumped out by similar means that are used for rescue opperations
   comment# 2   - S THOMPSON · AUSTRALIA · Feb 16, 2007 @ 7:46pm

As a Metallurgical engineer with experience in underwater work including environmental contamination, I would like to draw the attention to the fact that the only absolute safe measure is removal of the mercury. As has been shown in some cases of mercury pollution it does eventually show up even though it has been contained years later. Mercury cannot be simply left in situ under a cover and be expected to remain dormant, and this has already been varified with horific health problems being the end result of the neglect of removal.
   comment# 3   - Ed Burtt · Belleville, Ontario, Canada · May 29, 2007 @ 3:07pm

I am pleased to say that sense has prevailed in this case and the wreck is to be removed and the site cleared. One of my chums is to conduct a pre disturbance survey of U-864 very soon.
   comment# 4   - Steve Liscoe · Scotland · Apr 27, 2009 @ 6:57am

...and if we really want to talk about a war grave site that will need action soon, the USS Arizona, sunk in Pearl Harbour by the Japs and still a commissioned ship in the US Navy for reverential reasons, is leaking fuel oil. For those who have visited her, in which over 2,500 US Navy & Marine personnel were entombed, there has always been small "shiny patches" on the water above her as small amounts of fuel escaped. Evidently it has become much worse, and the ship is slowly settling in the sand too - probably as the lower hull rusts away. Soon the US Government will have to make some hard decisions about how invasive they will need to be to pump her dry. I very difficult decision to make.
   comment# 5   - John Baragwanath · Melbourne, Australia · May 13, 2009 @ 6:12pm

The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs for Norway now want to raise the U-boat. This is great, however they are making little to no effort addressing the fact that 73 men are also entomed on U-864. This is a disgrace.
   comment# 6   - Shawn Malone · Paoli, Pennsylavnia; USA · Jun 7, 2009 @ 4:17am

I hope they are also mindful of 22 torpedos.
   comment# 7   - Scott Trobec · St. Paul, Minnesota; USA · Jul 7, 2009 @ 1:47pm

It seems that greener heads have prevailed,these types of problems must be addressed for permanent solutions.our children, and our childrens children cannot be expected to solve our past mistakes.But I know this is going to be the future generations problem to solve,so lets do as much as we can to help now.keep me updated thanks Ron Bischoff 3547 W. 200 S. MARION In.46953
   comment# 8   - Ronald Bischoff · Louisville,Kentucky · Aug 16, 2009 @ 1:45pm
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