At the bottom of the sea, off the coast of Matosinhos, in Angeiras, lies a German submarine sunk by the crew, which was delivered in Portugal when, in 1945, Germany lost the Second World War. The U1277 is still almost intact, only four kilometres from the coast and at a depth of 27 meters.
It was Wednesday for three years that Portuguese divers began to monitor their conservation status through Baseline Matosinhos, a program that enables volunteers to observe and record changes in the world’s aquatic environments, seeking to stimulate public awareness and political action.
João Crespo, the project manager, has encouraged divers to record images and gather information when they go to the site. “We want to have a timeline so in a few years we look back and see evolution in time.”
For the moment, the measurements made by the divers allowed to realize that the bathing frequency of the zone, the ETAR and the monobóia where the oil tankers discharge are not the main threats. What has caused damage is the natural passage of time and exposure to atmospheric accidents. “The number of holes in the outer fuselage has increased a great deal, compromising it. When it starts inland, the degradation will be exponential,” he laments, fearing that anyone who dives into the area in a few years’ time will only find “a lot of irons.”
On the other hand, the debris, left by fishermen fishing in that zone, has caused some degradation in the place and concern with the elements of the project. “The submarine sits on a sand bed and space has become an artificial reef, concentrating marine life and attracting fishermen, who sometimes leave nets,” says João Crespo. It is not uncommon, therefore, that when they visit the site, divers often have to “remove ghost networks from U1277”.
According to João Crespo, there are “few shipwrecks of the Second World War as well preserved as the U1277 of Matosinhos, since it was not bombed.” The submarine has “a great historical load” and, because of its good state of conservation, if it were in another country would be considered “unmissable”, but “in Portugal has little visibility because there is no tradition in diving archeology,” regrets João Crespo.
By their accounts, the vessel is visited annually by almost half a thousand divers. About 10% will be foreigners, mainly English and German, and the rest Portuguese.
The manager of Baseline Matosinhos would like the U1277 to be considered by the authorities as a “dive reserve”, only to be visited with a guide and with the “controlled” fishing activity nearby. Measures that would allow better use of the “relic” on the seabed.
Sank on purpose after Germany lost the war
The U1277 was a German submarine that sailed on a mission when, in May 1945, Germany surrendered. On June 3, off the beach of Angeiras, Matosinhos, commander Ehrenreich-Peter Stever and the 47 crew decided to abandon the submarine in rubber boats. Fishermen help us reach the land, but are eventually detained by the police authorities. Four men stood behind and sank the submarine: they opened the valves to flood the rear stabilizer and flooded the empty fuel tanks in the middle of the boat. The U1277 sank astern.