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Salvage from U-859, 1973.

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    Salvage from U-859, 1973.

    Has anyone more information on the salvage operation that took place on the U-859 outside the port of Penang in the Malacca Straits such as who the salvors were or any published reports?
    http://www.flightmemory.com/ I have been round the world 11.83 times!

    #2
    Hello Newforest,
    The salvage operation on U 859 took place in 1972. It did not take place outside Penang harbour. It took place in international waters approximately 20 miles NW of Mukka Head.

    The submarine lay in 120 feet of water, not the various depth as have been subsequently reported. The vessel was lying in two halves, having taken a torpedo just aft of the conning tower, the two sections being about 60 feet apart.

    There were six of us involved in that salvage, all commercial divers, three Brits, one Australian and two Malaysians. We were working from a small vessel “Bluff Creek” which we had chartered in Singapore.

    We initially recovered 12 tons of liquid mercury which, in accordance with international law, we declared to the nearest “Receiver of Wreck” and duly handed it into his care.

    That was the last we ever saw of it. We were at that time naive enough to believe that there was some relationship between 'Justice' and 'The Law'. Big mistake.

    In the course of further salvage work a Malaysian naval gunboat arrived on site and ordered us off the location, threatening us with arrest (in international waters?) if we failed to comply. In turn we accused them of Piracy on the high seas. The standoff was resolved when the Navy threatened the master of the “Bluff Creek” with unspecified repercussions if he did not quit the wreck site. In view of the fact that if we had prevented the master from sailing we would have been guilty of mutiny and therefore legitimately liable to arrest by the Malaysian Navy. We had no choice but to return to Singapore.

    So, there you have information by someone who was on the job. I have newspaper cuttings from that time. What’s your interest?

    Comment


      #3
      Hello Newforest,
      The salvage operation on U 859 took place in 1972. It did not take place outside Penang harbour. It took place in international waters approximately 20 miles NW of Mukka Head.

      The submarine lay in 120 feet of water, not the various depth as have been subsequently reported. The vessel was lying in two halves, having taken a torpedo just aft of the conning tower, the two sections being about 60 feet apart.

      There were six of us involved in that salvage, all commercial divers, three Brits, one Australian and two Malaysians. We were working from a small vessel Bluff Creek which we had chartered in Singapore.

      We initially recovered 12 tons of liquid mercury which, in accordance with international law, we declared to the nearest Receiver of Wreck and duly handed it into his care.

      That was the last we ever saw of it. We were at that time naive enough to believe that there was some relationship between 'Justice' and 'The Law'. Big mistake.

      In the course of further salvage work a Malaysian naval gunboat arrived on site and ordered us off the location, threatening us with arrest (in international waters?) if we failed to comply. In turn we accused them of Piracy on the high seas. The standoff was resolved when the Navy threatened the master of the Bluff Creek with unspecified repercussions if he did not quit the wreck site. In view of the fact that if we had prevented the master from sailing we would have been guilty of mutiny and therefore legitimately liable to arrest by the Malaysian Navy. We had no choice but to return to Singapore.

      So, there you have information by someone who was on the job. I have newspaper cuttings from that time. Whats your interest?

      Comment


        #4
        Why would a U-Boat be carrying 12 tons of liquid mercury?

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          #5
          A lot of thermometres?

          Or maybe they were going to assist the the poor, unhappy hat makers of Japan...

          Wiki says:

          In 1972 a total of 12 tons of mercury were recovered from U-859 and brought into Singapore. The West German Embassy claimed ownership of the mercury. The Receiver of Wreck took possession of the mercury, and the High Court of Singapore ruled that "the German state has never ceased to exist despite Germany's unconditional surrender in 1945 and whatever was the property of the German State, unless it was captured and taken away by one of the Allied Powers, still remains the property of the German State..."
          Greenwood, C.J. (1980). International Law Reports: v.56. Cambridge University Press. pp. 40–47. ISBN 0-521-46401-3.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_submarine_U-859

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by hampden98 View Post
            Why would a U-Boat be carrying 12 tons of liquid mercury?
            It is an essential war material and one of the few raw materials that Nazi Germany could supply to Japan in return for other raw materials coming the other way...

            ...plus it is compact enough to transport useful amounts on a U-Boat (outside the pressure hull)!


            Possibly for fulminate-of-mercury? An essential primary explosive for everything from bullets to bombs?
            Last edited by Creaking Door; 10th November 2016, 22:35.
            WA$.

            Comment


              #7
              So, there you have information by someone who was on the job. I have newspaper cuttings from that time. What’s your interest?

              Thanks for the update, I don't mind waiting nine years for a reply, especially when it is so accurate! I guess you would be the Scottish contributor for the adventure.

              My interest was, I believe that I was reading a book about U boat operations and this one would have left me with questions unanswered about the outcome of the operation. Presumably there are still 19 tons of mercury awaiting salvage?
              http://www.flightmemory.com/ I have been round the world 11.83 times!

              Comment


                #8
                I am guessing, from how the Uboat was sunk, having been transported outside the pressure hull and the sub having split it two, what was salvaged was still containerised and the rest was lost in the destruction.

                Comment


                  #9
                  There was a documentary fairly recently on TV about a U-Boat sunk at the end of the war in Norwegian waters that was also carrying mercury to Japan.

                  The mercury was sealed in metal cans and was used to replace the steel (or lead?) ballast inside the keel of the U-Boat that it needed to be heavy enough to dive; there was some excellent underwater footage of the submarine and the cans on the seabed. The wreck was being surveyed to see if the mercury was leaking into the environment.

                  The U-Boat was also carrying a 'complete jet aircraft' and plans for constructing them in Japan.
                  Last edited by Creaking Door; 11th November 2016, 11:03.
                  WA$.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Newforest View Post
                    So, there you have information by someone who was on the job. I have newspaper cuttings from that time. Whats your interest?

                    Thanks for the update, I don't mind waiting nine years for a reply, especially when it is so accurate! I guess you would be the Scottish contributor for the adventure.

                    My interest was, I believe that I was reading a book about U boat operations and this one would have left me with questions unanswered about the outcome of the operation. Presumably there are still 19 tons of mercury awaiting salvage?
                    Newforest Sorry to hear that you have had to wait 9 years for feedback.

                    No, Im not the Scottish Connection. Sad to say that he died earlier this year. Lost a good pal.

                    It was our understanding that there was a total of 33 tons aboard of which we recovered approx 12. Logically there remained 20 or so tons, as you say. However therein lies a story.

                    Having been chased off, ripped off, and declared without any rights whatever over what we had salvaged by the Singapore court, we received absolutely no compensation for our efforts. On the contrary, we were threatened with persona non-grata status in Malaysia should we persist. This operation wiped us out financially.

                    We learned later that the West German authorities awarded salvage rights to a so-called salvage company based in Ulm but registered in Luxembourg.

                    We also learned that these folk later turned up in a Yugoslav-registered trawler with a German dive crew aboard and proceeded to utterly destroy the wreck with explosives one wonders why?

                    Stranger than fiction, is it not?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      How ironic, when you consider how critical some Germans have been over the treatment of German U-Boat 'war graves' in Brtish waters.

                      I guess there are only three things that you'd be desperate enough to use explosives to try and recover: mercury, uranium and 'Nazi gold'!

                      You'd have thought that using explosives was totally counter-productive; I know mercury has a cash value but surely the most important thing is to protect the marine (and human) environment from mercury getting into the food-chain. I can't imagine explosives are the best way of doing that! The same goes, even more so, for uranium.
                      Last edited by Creaking Door; 11th November 2016, 12:50.
                      WA$.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Your point well taken with reference pollution etc. However you have to bear in mind that we are talking about the 1970s. Ecological awareness was not high on the agenda at that time. In any event one suspects that this was not a case of wanton vandalism - some well-placed interested parties at governmental levels wanted to eliminate this wreck entirely. One can only speculate as to the reasons for this …….

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                          #13
                          Maybe Hitler was on board...;o)

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                            #14
                            I was forgetting this was in 1972; I guess the German government may have been more forward thinking than the rest of the world when it came to polluting the environment, or the cost of compensation and clean-up?

                            I can't think of anything else that would make somebody want to break-up a U-Boat wreck, except to access (or destroy) a cargo that it was carrying? After all, it was no secret, even during the war, that these U-Boats were making these journeys to Japan.

                            Ironically, I think I'm right in saying that, some of the uranium for the Nagasaki bomb was manufactured in Germany for their own atomic-weapon programme; when Germany collapsed it was sent in a U-Boat to Japan but the U-Boat was intercepted and the uranium ended-up in American hands!

                            I suppose I should add the recovery of lead and brass from submarines as a reason for somebody to 'salvage' them. Every time the price of metals gets really high somebody proposes salvaging the 'Operation Deadlight' U-Boats from the Irish Sea. However, I don't think it would ever be worth it to recover the brass; I was lucky enough to take a look inside U-534 before she was put on her current display and there was precious little brass in her, it had all been replaced by less scarce iron and steel. I expect there would be some copper in the motors / dynamos but I doubt enough to ever make it worth salvaging.
                            WA$.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Suart48 does not say the latter crew did salvage it, just that it was 'destroyed with explosives', which gives the impression of smashing the remains - human and vessel - to pieces and (probably) distributing the remaining 20-odd tons of mercury across the area. As they say...different times.
                              I have no more than a general idea about what happens when mercury is let loose in a fluid; being heavy does it pool in dips, or would it be affected by tides and get pushed around? Would it eventually dilute, or just become many smaller and smaller 'blobs' until absorbed into the local wildlife?

                              Not sure there would be enough precious metal on a submarine - any generic submarine - for anyone to want to try any form of salvage other than for historic purposes, and these days there are all sorts of one off (in cost outlay but still expensive) equipment to help them, which obviously implies there would be no profit in it, even with the fact that the metals recovered would be pre radiation era...

                              Comment


                                #16
                                There is probably something like 200 to 300 tons of lead in a submarine of that era, in the lead-acid batteries and keel weights; not sure if that is economic to recover as it would be extremely difficult to access in an intact wreck.

                                I cannot think of anything that anyone would want to hide, or could effectively hide, by destroying a wreck with explosives. I can't imagine that any commercial diver would want to enter the wreck of a sunken U-Boat either, unless they had too; but the submarine in question was torpedoed in half anyway so that would be less of an issue that if it was relatively intact.

                                Why would anybody want to destroy human remains, further than the sea had already destroyed them in twenty-five years? I'm afraid I'm always very sceptical of 'Nazi' conspiracy theories; usually the answer is far more prosaic, and usually bureaucratic indifference, parsimony or ineptitude...

                                ...either that or it is to hide secret UFO technology captured by the Nazis from aliens!
                                Last edited by Creaking Door; 12th November 2016, 14:00.
                                WA$.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Creaking Door View Post
                                  There is probably something like 200 to 300 tons of lead in a submarine of that era, in the lead-acid batteries and keel weights; not sure if that is economic to recover as it would be extremely difficult to access in an intact wreck.
                                  No, church roofs are a lot easier to access.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    How did the sub meet it's end? Was it torpedoed by another sub or did it torpedo itself (not that uncommon) ?

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                                      #19
                                      As post 2 reports, torpedoed, not by itself!
                                      http://www.flightmemory.com/ I have been round the world 11.83 times!

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        ...;o)
                                        Last edited by snafu; 16th November 2016, 01:04. Reason: Me being stupid.

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