After almost 70 years of wondering where it was, divers found a sunken German submarine off the coast of Nantucket last week. The U-550 was found after two decades of searching by a privately funded group organized by lawyer Joe Mazraani, according to The Associated Press. The seven-man team found the 252-foot sub using side-scan sonar 70 miles south of the Massachusetts Island.
On April 16, 1944, the U-boat hit an American tanker that was lagging behind its convoy with a torpedo. The SS Pan Pennsylvania was struck when it was on its way to Great Britain, carrying almost 150,000 barrels of gasoline. Twenty-five men were killed.
When it was clear the SS Pan Pennsylvania was in trouble, the U-550 snuck behind the sinking ship to shield itself from American naval vessels. The USS Joyce and USS Gandy fired their deck guns, dropped depth charges and even rammed the German submarine, forcing it to surface. The German crewmen abandoned the U-550 after setting off their own explosives, part of the reason the vessel took so long to be found.
Forty-four Germans were killed and 12 captured. The survivors were taken to Britain.
Half a century after the SS Pan Pennsylvania went down, the Mazraani crew began scouring more than 100 square miles of ocean. Slowly and tenuously, they scanned the bottom of the ocean with sonar. It was a method the crew compared to "mowing the lawn," reports Boston.com.
They set out from the end of Long Island on a trip that would take half a day to just arrive in the vague area where the U-boat went down. Allthough they had maps of the area, weather patterns and shifting currents since World War II made finding the U-550 an intimidating task. The process made the find that much sweeter.
"She's totally intact, amazingly," said Garry Kozak, a specialist in undersea searches. They dove to the ocean floor to confirm the sonar had picked up what they were looking for.
Mazraani and the rest of the crew reported spending thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to complete the mission, adding that none of them stand to make any money off the venture unless a book is written. They plan more visits to the wreck site to document what remains and to notify the families of the German casualties of the submarine's whereabouts, notes The Telegraph.
This U-550 is the only German submarine known to have gone down in the area, although others have been found off the coast of the United States.