German U-Boat Discovered In Gulf of Mexico

BP and Shell announced discovery of the long-sought undersea wreckage of the German World War II submarine U-166 in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery was made as the companies were surveying a planned underwater pipeline route, and was reported to the U.S. government, which confirmed the find and notified the government of Germany. The U-166 was the only submarine sunk in the Gulf of Mexico during the war.

The discovery was made by a one-of-a-kind, sophisticated, unmanned remotely controlled submarine, or autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), operating in waters almost one mile deep. Named the Hugin-3000, the vessel was developed and operated by C & C Technologies, Inc. on contract to BP and Shell. The AUV utilizes sonar and other equipment to provide detailed images of the sea bottom needed for determining optimum pipeline routes.

The U-166 lies near another casualty of World War II, the American passenger freighter S.S. Robert E. Lee, which was sunk by a torpedo from the U-166 on July 30, 1942. Twenty-five passengers and crewmembers on the Robert E. Lee died as a result of that attack. The U-166 was sunk shortly afterward by the U.S. military, resulting in the loss of all 52 members of the submarine crew. Both vessels are resting in approximately 5,000 feet of water about 45 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River. The site of the sunken Robert E. Lee was previously known.

The discovery of the U-166 was made last month during survey work associated with the Okeanos Gas Pipeline, a joint BP and Shell project that will transport natural gas to shore from the Na Kika and Crazy Horse ultra- deepwater fields currently under development. BP and Shell notified the Minerals Management Service of the find and elected to re-route the Okeanos pipeline farther away from the sites.

Last week, BP and Shell voluntarily funded a video investigation of the sunken vessels, using an Oceaneering, Inc. remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The video captured detailed images of the wreckages and provided information needed by archeologists to document the discovery of the U-166. BP and Shell are continuing to work with the U.S. and German governments to provide information about the discovery, in an effort to help bring closure to these events from nearly 60 years ago.