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Wreck of WWII warship with Nazi symbol discovered off Norway

The discoverers say the shipwreck of the Karlsruhe is lying upright on its keel beneath about 490 metres ( 1600 feet) of seawater near Norway's southern coast.
The discoverers say the shipwreck of the Karlsruhe is lying upright on its keel beneath about 490 meters ( 1600 feet) of seawater near Norway's southern coast.
(Image: © Statnett/Isurvey )

The wreck of a German warship torpedoed and sunk by a British submarine in 1940 has been discovered in deep water off the North Sea coast of southern Norway.

Norway's electric grid operator Statnett located the shipwreck near its underwater power cables on sonar scans of the seafloor in 2017, according to a Statnett statement.

In August, Statnett sent down an underwater remotely-operated-vehicle, or ROV, to inspect the wreck. The ROV, which was tethered to the offshore support ship Olympic Taurus, sent back detailed images that suggested the wreck was that of the German cruiser Karlsruhe.

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"When the ROV results showed us a ship that was torpedoed, we realized it was from the war," said project engineer Ole Petter Hobberstad. "As the cannons became visible on the screen, we understood it was a huge warship."

The German cruiser Karlsruhe was launched in 1927 and was equipped with nine 15-centimeter guns. It was 570 feet (174 meters) long and could reach a top speed of 32 knots (37 mph or 59 km/h) — quite fast for the time.

The wreck now lies upright on the seafloor beneath 1,607 feet (490 m) of seawater, about 13 nautical miles (24 kilometers) from the port city of Kristiansand on Norway's southern coast.

According to the Reuters news agency, Norwegian broadcasters also reported that the underwater images taken by the ROV included a medallion on the warship decorated with a Nazi swastika symbol.

According to news reports, there was a Nazi swastika symbol on the warship.

According to news reports, there was a Nazi swastika symbol on the warship. (Image credit: Statnett)

German warship

Karlsruhe was a cadet training ship in the 1930 and was part of German patrols off the coast of Spain during the Spanish Civil War from 1936.

It was being refitted when World War II broke out in September 1939, and it did not see action until April 9, 1940, when it served as the flagship of an attack group during the German invasion of Norway, with Kristiansand as its main target.

Related: Photos: Explore a WWII shipwreck in virtual reality

The capabilities of the warship proved significant during the attack, according to archaeologist Frode Kvalø of the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo.

"The ship was an important actor at a crucial time of Norwegian modern history," Kvalø told Live Science in an email.

The Karlsruhe had suffered hits from Norwegian artillery during the attack, but it's unclear how badly it was damaged.

It then left Kristiansand later that day, bound for Germany; along the way, it was hit by torpedoes from the British submarine Truant, which blasted large holes in the hull. Two hours later, the crew, under orders from the commander, abandoned the ship, which was then deliberately sunk by a German torpedo boat from the flotilla.

The exact location of the sunken ship was unknown for almost 80 years. 

Image 1 of 4

The Karlsruhe was the flagship of an attack group on the port city of Kristiansand during the German invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940.

The Karlsruhe was the flagship of an attack group on the port city of Kristiansand during the German invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940. (Image credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)
Image 2 of 4

The discoverers say the shipwreck of the Karlsruhe is lying upright on its keel beneath about 490 metres ( 1600 feet) of seawater near Norway's southern coast.

The discoverers say the shipwreck of the Karlsruhe is lying upright on its keel beneath about 490 metres ( 1600 feet) of seawater near Norway's southern coast. (Image credit: Statnett/Isurvey )
Image 3 of 4

The naval guns of the German World War II cruiser Karlsruhe surprised its discoverers, who thought they were investigating a much smaller shipwreck.

The naval guns of the German World War II cruiser Karlsruhe surprised its discoverers, who thought they were investigating a much smaller shipwreck. (Image credit: Statnett)
Image 4 of 4

The Karlsruhe was severely damaged by torpedoes, but the discoverers report that it is surprisingly well-preserved in the deep water.

The Karlsruhe was severely damaged by torpedoes, but the discoverers report that it is surprisingly well-preserved in the deep water. (Image credit: Statnett)

Historic wreck

Archaeologists at the Norwegian Maritime Museum studied the sonar data and videos made by Statnett to make a positive identification of the shipwreck, Kvalø said.

One of the decisive factors in the identification were the distinctive asymmetrical aft gun turrets of the Karlsruhe, which can be seen on the wreck, he said.

"Karlsruhe is an impressive sight," he said. "Most big warships in deep waters have turned [over] on the way down to the seabed because of their large superstructure, but the Karlsruhe has gone straight down and is resting on its keel."

"Apart from the bow, which blew up when the last German torpedo hit the ammunition storage, the ship is practically intact," he said.

Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct a statement that said Karlsruhe was was equipped with nine 15-inch guns. The guns were "15 centimeters." The headline was changed to avoid the technical term "battleship," which can refer to the very largest warships.

Originally published on Live Science.

  • ReluctantFactChekcer
    Please revise your article in both headline and content. A simple wikipedia check shows that the headline is wrong: the Karlsruhe was a light cruiser, not a battleship. Germany was forbidden to even commission battleships at the time. Furthermore, no WW2 era German battleships had 9 15 inch guns, the most carried were 8 on the Bismarck and Tirpitz.

    The body of the article confuses centimeters for inches, making a light cruiser armament of 15 *cm* guns appear to be an armament of 38 *cm* (15 in) guns.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • Chem721
    ReluctantFactChekcer said:
    Please revise your article in both headline and content. A simple wikipedia check shows that the headline is wrong: the Karlsruhe was a light cruiser, not a battleship.

    The headline is wrong, but the article calls it right, it identifies it as a cruiser throughout.

    One Quote:

    "The German cruiser Karlsruhe was launched in 1927 and was equipped with nine 15-inch guns. It was 570 feet (174 meters) long and could reach a top speed of 32 knots (37 mph or 59 km/h) — quite fast for the time. "

    I was surprised about the report of 15 inch guns though (thanks for the correction on that), and thought they were a tad large for a cruiser. And of course a quick check tells us that only Bismarck Class battleships (two) were commissioned by the Kriegsmarine of the Third Reich with 15 inch guns. Those guns were the sole reason why the British Navy was so afraid of them. They could have destroyed the Brits beyond the range of their guns.
    Reply
  • Nite
    No I don't agree. From the look of it. They look like 11in guns from The Scharnhorst. Not a light cruiser. Check the layout again.
    Reply
  • Chem721
    Nite said:
    No I don't agree. From the look of it. They look like 11in guns from The Scharnhorst. Not a light cruiser. Check the layout again.

    Read a bit about many of these vessels, but mostly about the Tirpitz.

    According to Wiki*, the Scharnhorst was sunk on 26 December 1943 to the extreme north of Norway in the Battle of the North Cape, so the location of it's wreck is not right for this one.

    I simply assumed the i.d. was made based on the article here, which strongly suggests an approximate position where the vessel must be lying due to battle reports of the day and likely area(s) of sinkings, etc., thereby providing its identity.

    Quoting from the article:

    "It was being refitted when World War II broke out in September 1939, and it did not see action until April 9, 1940, when it served as the flagship of an attack group during the German invasion of Norway, with Kristiansand as its main target.

    The Karlsruhe had suffered hits from Norwegian artillery during the attack, but it's unclear how badly it was damaged.

    It then left Kristiansand later that day, bound for Germany; along the way, it was hit by torpedoes from the British submarine Truant, which blasted large holes in the hull. Two hours later, the crew, under orders from the commander, abandoned the ship, which was then deliberately sunk by a German torpedo boat from the flotilla.

    The exact location of the sunken ship was unknown for almost 80 years."

    end quote.

    * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_North_Cape
    As I recall, the Scharnhorst spent a lot of time with the Tirpitz holed up along the coast of Norway, always shifting around causing a great deal of grief for the Royal Navy, but without much action! Adolf did not dare lose the Tirpitz after the disaster with the Bismark.
    Reply