Navy to solve mystery
Such is the interest surrounding whether a mini-submarine lies on the river bed, that a specially arranged meeting was held at Londonderry Harbour yesterday - involving everyone from the Environment Minister to the Royal Navy.
The purpose of the meeting was to find the best way to investigate what was described as an “underwater anomaly” which many believe to be a WWII submarine, perhaps a German mini-submarine.
There are fears it is a war grave, or that the vessel may contain dangerous explosives.
Representatives of the Royal Navy, Search and Rescue teams, the Harbour Commission, PSNI, NI Environment Agency, the Crown Estate and the University of Ulster were in attendance yesterday.
Sonar readings were also conducted yesterday afternoon to find out more but also in various locations of the Foyle so the exact location would not be revealed to curious onlookers.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood spoke of the “huge” interest in the discovery, and said that if specialist teams can establish whether or not a mini-submarine lies at the bottom of the Foyle, there was great potential for “development.”
He did point out, however, that no-one yet knows exactly what lies on the Foyle’s bed.
He said: “I am not expert so I rely on what the experts say, but if it transpires that it is a German mini-sub then that is a pretty rare find and a unique asset and therefore opportunities might open up.
“There has been a lot of speculation and it is probably best that I don’t fuel it. I am not going to have a situation where we are sending out our own NIEA divers who don’t have the skills and they accept that they don’t have the skills.
“They are great – very skilful people – but not at dealing with munitions or ordinance. Once we can identify what is lying on the river bed, opportunities may arise. There is massive interest in what is there but at this stage we don’t know.
“There are risks associated with the site. This requires a specialist team to conduct a dive on the site. I have requested the assistance of specialist Navy divers to undertake this task and I anticipate a positive response.”
A Royal Navy representative who attended the meeting told the Sentinel about how Londonderry and the Foyle was a “hub” of activity during World War Two, but that it was unlikely there were any “missing” vessels.
He said: “I don’t know at this stage what it is down there, no-one knows for sure.
“There would be safety concerns surrounding the find, especially with regards to whether or not there would be munitions if this is a military vessel.
“Although, it is unlikely that something would have been unaccounted for – it is not very likely that something would have gone missing. Very detailed records were kept.”
Speaking about the history of the area and its significance he said: “The whole area was hugely significant.
“In 1945 the whole place was a real hub of activity, from the Navy to the RAF. The Foyle was pivotal.”
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Weather for Londonderry
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 12 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west