Big Blue Diving - Koh Tao - Thailand - 'The Underwater Chernobyl' - A Norwegian Catastrophe?
Monday, 15 October 2018 10:25

'The Underwater Chernobyl' - A Norwegian Catastrophe? Featured

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Over 70 years after it was sunk by the British Navy, a Nazi U-boat has once again become a major threat to its surroundings after it was revealed the submarine is leaking dangerous levels of toxic chemicals into the sea.


The wreck of the U-864 submarine is sitting off the coast of Norway about 3km from the town of Bergen, and was been ripped apart when torpedoed by the British submarine HMS Venturer in early 1945. It is known that U-684 was sailing for Japan carrying jet parts when it was discovered by British code-breakers at their Bletchley Park decoding centre in London, who had intercepted a German message related to the U-boats mission. It was struck by 1 of the 4 torpedoes fired by the HMS Venturer in what is said to be the only fully underwater submarine battle that ever took place. All 73 crew members onboard were killed.




It was first re-discovered in March 2003 by a Royal Norwegian Navy minesweeper after being alerted by local fisherman, and the 2400 tonne wreck is now sitting at a depth of around 152 metres. It contains 1800 barrels with 67,000 kilos of mercury which are leaking into the sea at a rate of about 4 kg a year. This deadly ooze has contaminated over 30,000 square metres of the sea bed and huge amounts of marine life so badly that the Norwegian government has declared a boat and fishing ban in the area.




Originally it was planned to raise the wreck and salvage the mercury, which is by far the most environmentally friendly solution, but recent events and a seemingly eco-ignorant government have led to a Dutch company named ‘Van Oord’ to be hired to bury the wreck and 11 acres of the seabed in 100,000 tonnes of sand and rubble to stem the leakage – not a permanent solution at all unfortunately, especially as we’re dealing with possibly the largest mercury deposit in the whole world, and potentially one of the world’s worst environmental catastrophes!



The operation is scheduled to begin in 2018, will take a year to complete and will cost around $32 million. A similar process of entombing has apparently been successfully used around 30 times in the past to contain mercury-contaminated sites over the last 20 years, researchers say.


However campaigners and specialists warn that despite these measures mercury could still leak out from the vessel for decades to come, becoming an “underwater Chernobyl” as it was previously described by a Norwegian Coastal Administration spokeswoman. Norway has the funds to salvage the mercury, but not the interest in stopping what will no doubt be a disaster in the future.



So what can we do to help?


Unfortunately there’s not a great deal we can do alone (unless you’re a member of the Norwegian government) but if you could take a moment to sign this petition -



Also anyone supporting the salvaging of the mercury (rather than taking the cheapest/worst option of just covering up the problem) can download an appeal written by the ‘Global Mercury Scandal’ group, who are very active in fighting this decision. The appeal can then be distributed to environmental groups, companies, press and politicians around the world, and can be found here -




Save the Oceans!




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