Brussels, Sep 19 The well-preserved wreck of a German submarine sunk during World War I has been found in the North Sea and may have the bodies of its crew still on board, Belgian officials said today.
A diver who has explored the wreck, lying in 30 metres (100 feet) of water off the port of Ostend, said the good condition of the submarine suggested the remains of its 23 crew could still be inside.
It is the 11th German submarine from the 1914-18 war to be found in Belgian waters and the best-preserved example to date, Jan Mees, head of the Flanders Marine Institute told AFP.
The wreck was found in the summer by Thomas Termote, a diver and expert in marine archaeology, but its exact location is being kept secret to deter treasure-hunters.
"The submarine is very intact, everything is still closed -- that's what he (Termote) saw during his first visit this summer," Mees said.
The submarine would have had 22 crew and a commander on board, West Flanders provincial governor Carl Decaluwe told De Standaard newspaper.
"All the hatches are still closed. This suggests the wreck has not been discovered before and moreover the 23 crew members are still inside," Decaluwe said.
During WWI, the German navy used the Belgian port of Zeebrugge as a base for its submarines, known as U-boats, to attack shipping in the North Sea.
To combat the U-boat threat, the British tried to block Zeebrugge port in April 1918 by scuttling old ships in the entry channel.
Brussels, Sept 19 An intact German World War I submarine containing the bodies of 23 people has been found off the coast of Belgium, authorities said today.
Western Flanders Governor Carl Decaluwe told The Associated Press that the find on the floor of the North Sea "is very unique."
"It's quite amazing that we found something like this," Decaluwe said. "The impact damage was at the front, but the submarine remains closed and there are 23 people still onboard."
The UB II-type dive boat that was found is 27 metres long and 6 metres wide, and is lying at about a 45 degree angle, between 25-30 metres below the surface.
From the damage to the front of the vessel, it appears that the sub may have struck a mine with its upper deck. Two torpedo tubes have been destroyed but the lower tube is intact and closed.
Video images show the submarine encrusted with barnacles and seaweed. It is also adorned with fishing gear, including nets.
Decaluwe said the U-boat was found by researchers. He declined to provide details about its location until the site has been protected. He has contacted the German ambassador because "we need to see what can do" with the remains.
Around 18 U-boats were stationed with the Flanders Flotilla in Bruges between 1915 and 1918. Thirteen of them were destroyed.
It's the 11th such wreck to be found in Belgian waters. Allied warships and cargo ships were easy pickings for the German subs that were launched from Bruges, just across the English Channel.
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