Wreck-ollections: U-Boat 166

Welcome to the second installment of the Inner Space Center’s ‘Wreck-ollections’, wherein we take a closer look at some of the fascinating shipwrecks we’ve visited or re-discovered.  This season has found us diving on a series of historical wrecks from WWII, and so we will go back to the beginning of the summer, to the wreck of U-boat 166.

A view of the bow captured by Hercules earlier this summer. Copyright Ocean Exploration Trust.
A mounted gun from the bow of U166. Copyright Ocean Exploration Trust.

A 252 foot submarine, U166 was built in 1941 in Breman, Germany.  Commissioned and commanded by Hans-Gunther Kuhlman, U166 voyaged on 2 patrols before its demise at the hands of the US Navy Escort Vessel PC-566 on July 30 1942. During its single year of service U166 sunk four enemy vessels, and now rests less than a mile from its final victim, the Robert E. Lee.

Initially, there was contention over the fate of U166, as for many years the German vessel was believed to have been sunk by a single depth charge deployed by the US J4F-1 Grumman aircraft. Almost sixty years after the sinking of U166, the wreck was re-discovered by C&C Technologies during an oil survey funded by BP Amoco and Shell, and its location disputed the previously accepted demise of U166. After the sinking of the Robert E. Lee in 1942, the US Navy Escort Vessel PC-566 reportedly attacked but failed to sink U166, however the re-discovery of the wreck so close to the Robert E. Lee stood to confirm that their attack had been successful, and the US Navy has amended its recorded history to reflect these new finds.

Lying some 5000 feet below the surface, U166 is an official gravesite and is not to be disturbed. However, the well-preserved wreck is providing George Mason University with the opportunity to study and analyze organic decay of historic wrecks, and may stand to assist in our knowledge of shipwreck preservation. More on their work here: http://mbac.gmu.edu/mbac_wp/diving-the-u166-day5/


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