This past Labor Day, as beachgoers up and down the eastern seaboard of the U.S. enjoyed a sunny holiday at the shore, Erik Petkovic was in the darkened cabin of R/V Explorer some 40 miles off the Virginia coast. Peering into a video monitor linked to a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) some 400 feet below, he suddenly exclaimed, “That’s it! There it is!”
The object that caused his excitement was the wreckage of SM U-111, the last World War I-era German submarine to be discovered in U.S. waters. The sleek tube of riveted iron had been part of the Unterseeboot (U-boat) fleet that struck terror in Allied sailors.
After the war an American crew brought the captured submarine across the Atlantic in a daring solo voyage that required navigating the icy waters where R.M.S. Titanic had sunk seven years earlier. “It’s one of those remarkable lost tales of survival,” Petkovic said.