U-581: wreck of German WWII U-boat found

The discoverers: Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen

Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen, operators of Rebikoff-Niggeler FoundationĀ“s  LULA1000 submersible, found the wreck of the German U-boat U-581. It was exactly 75 years ago that this submarine sank near the south coast of Pico Island, in the Azores/Portugal, after having been pursed and attacked by the British destroyer HMS Westcott.

The wreck lies in almost 900 metres of depth and transformed into a real deep-sea coral reef, making it an extremely interesting site for deep-water coral researchers.

Short history of the sinking of U-581: U-581 left for the Azores with the order to sink the British vessel   which, on 2nd February, 1942, had to leave Horta harbour on the island of Faial/Azores.

The British destroyer HMS Westcott detected U-581 and threw depth charges. The impact of those charges caused severe damage to the u-boat, and the commander gave order to the crew to abandon and sink the U-581. U-581 sank in the morning hours on 2nd February, 1942, south of Pico island. Four men died at surface by depth charges. One of U-581s officers, Walter Sitek, swam to the shore of Pico Island. 41 men were rescued and became prisoners of war.


The operators of the LULA1000 submersible, Kirsten and Joachim Jakobsen, verified the position of the wreck of U-581 on 13th september, 2016, after a search of several months. After analyzing the German and British report on the sinking, a search area with the dimensions of 4 x 8 nautical miles was defined. During a first phase, between march and september, the team had first produced bathymetric 3D charts of the search area, by using a Multibeam sonar. After that, a sidescan sonar with 2200 metres of tow cable was used for high-resolution acoustic images of the seabed. Finally, the position of the wreck was verified and high-resolution video images were taken by means of the manned submersible LULA1000.


The wreck has been colonized by cold-water corals


Exactly 75 years later after the sinking, the wreck represents a valuable object for studies on cold-water corals and the conditions which make possible the creation of coral reefs in great depth. Cold-water corals are considered vulnerable ecosystems. Until now, little is known on the growth rate of such corals. Some species can become several hundreds or even several thousands of years old.

Being that the exact date of sinking and thus the maximum age of any colonizing organism is known, valuable conclusions may be drawn from this warship wreck that became a hotspot of deepsea coral life.


The Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation intends to produce a documentary on the history as well as the search for and discovery of the U-581. Also, a 3-D virtual photomosaic will be produced.



The LULA1000 submersible is technically unique. It is being used in reseach projects and for mapping of deep-water habitats off the Azores islands, as well as in cinematograhic projects (recently BBC, National Geographic, NHK and others). With its large Plexiglas viewport of 1.4m (4ft 7") in diameter and 14cm (5.5") thickness, the vehicle is an ideal tool for in-situ observation and for filmmakers to document deep-sea animal life. The LULA100 is basically a propelled deepsea camera. The Plexiglas viewport is the primary lens, with the camera operator and pilot sitting inside. In conjunction with the elaborated lighting system, it is the ideal tool for high-quality cinematography on deepsea fauna.