Its every divers dream - to find a long-lost submarine at the end of the shotline! But thats how we found UC-47, an iron coffin from World War One, 24 miles off Flamborough Head, in May this year.
The discovery of the grave of UC-47 was no accident. I had been wanting to find my own submarine ever since I discovered diving some six years ago. It remained a dream until I found other divers with the same passion.
The Yorkshire lets find a U-boat wreck-diving team, which besides me includes Billy Woolford, Graham Hirst, Chris Davis, Simon Elvidge and Daz Smith, came together like pins to a magnet. We had all been diving to find wrecks in the U-boat graveyard off Flamborough Head.
At first we were looking for UB-75, which was reported lost in the area, but then in the course of digging into German U-boat archives, we found a possible position in our area for another lost submarine, a mine-layer of the UC-II class, UC-47.
So we swapped U-boats and pinpointed six sites that we thought might be UC-47. We discarded two when the Hydrographic Depart-ments print-outs showed clearly that they were the wrong size for a submarine, and proceeded to dive the other four.The position of UC-47 is 54 01 00; 00 20 00E, but as she lies in an area of sandhills that give funny readings on an echo-sounder, you really need a magnetometer to spot her or youll find yourself diving a desert! This is a long-way-out hard boat dive, and anyone qualified to dive 50m, who wants to visit on a look-but-no-touch basis either the sub (a war grave) or HMS Falcon should use John Jarvis and his registered charter boat Blue Marlin (01262-601183).
Our first dive caused such excitement that we almost forgot about U-boats for a while. Billy and Graham found themselves on a largely-intact World War One destroyer!
For a number of dives the hunt for the sub took a very definite second place! Were pretty sure that the destroyer is HMS Falcon, sunk in a collision with a mine-sweeper in April, 1918, while hunting U-boats off Flamborough Head.
Falcon is a great dive in 50m. You can see the engines and gauges. Guns and torpedo tubes are still in place, but exciting as she is, she still wasnt my dream wreck.
I had some difficulty in getting the lads back to the hunt for UC-47, but while I was at sea fishing for my living, Daz Smith led the rest of the team onto two of our other possibilities. They turned out to be very scattered scrap-heaps which had once been small ships.
But it was fourth time lucky! Chris Davis, Simon Elvidge and Daz Smith made the first dive - and there was our sub!
It is gloomy down there at 51m, but the viz is surprisingly good: often 10m or more. This makes the 52m-long U-boat look menacingly black against the sandhill peaks around the wreck, and the solid-looking grey mist of the sea.
UC-47 is so head down into the sand that towards the bow only the conning tower, the gun and one of her telescopic radio masts stand up out of the seabed.
But her stern is 6m clear, with both her three-bladed propellers still on their shafts. In her final seconds, after depth charges from a British patrol boat followed her down 80 years ago, the stern torpedo tube was blown clean out of her. It now lies empty on the sand completely clear of the starboard side of the wreck.
There is more damage, probably from another depth charge, on the port side near the stern, where there is a large hole. The aft hatch is closed, which means that even if they survived the attack there was no attempt at a free ascent escape by the engine room crewmen.
Not far from the aft hatch, more extensive damage to the outer hull runs right up to the bow, and an old trawl net is draped over some of the twisted metal. Both the conning tower and control room periscopes have been knocked flat to point aft and lie on the sand on the starboard side.
The conning tower hatch is open, and this may well have been where Royal Navy divers got into her and retrieved the plans of the minefields she had just laid. Just in front of the conning tower is the 88mm gun, which has live shells scattered around. There are spent shellcases among them, presumably because they were being saved for refilling.
The six hatch covers of the mine chutes are just clear of the sand. The telescopic radio mast rears up some 7m vertically from the hull between the fourth and fifth mine chutes.
The pressure hull is intact at the bow, but the outer hull and the twin bow torpedo tubes have been torn free of the wreck. Their doors are closed, so some of the seven torpedoes she carried may be still inside. There is a large hole in the air ballast tank on the starboard side. Even if UC-47 wasnt a war grave, no one could enter her now, because sand and silt come to within four or five feet of the hatch cover. But we often visit her.