On March 1, 1942 Ensign William Tepuni and the crew of his Lockheed Hudson sight U-656 cruising on the surface south of Cape Race, Newfoundland. The sun is low in the late winter sky preventing lookouts on the sub from detecting the plane until it is too late. The U-boat crash dives but is still visible as the Hudson straddles the sub with depth charges. An oil slick begins to immediately rise to the surface. The next day destroyers U.S.S. Gleaves and U.S.S. Bernadou arrive at the scene to finish off the sub. This is the first sinking of a U-boat by U.S. forces in WWII.
Join us as we tell the story of U-656 by searching for its final resting place. Two previous expeditions in 2010 and 2012 were self-funded and covered 40 square miles of prime search area using side scan sonar. Although we located a shipwreck in 2010, the location of U-656 remains a mystery. We are heading back this July armed with new magnetic survey data, but we need your help to fill in gaps in the survey and finally locate U-656.
Similar aerial magnetic data for Lake Superior revealed the location of 3 shipwrecks including the previously undiscovered Henry B. Smith (Fox News Interview). We have identified a magnetic anomaly just north of the area we have searched, so we already have one target to investigate. While we are hopeful this target is U-656, this magnetic anomaly could be caused by a surface ship or a different wreck. Furthermore, the 4000m spacing between the flight lines in the magnetic data set is too wide to guarantee detection of a U-boat if it lies halfway between search lines. A more detailed aerial magnetic survey is needed to fully cover the search area.
We have identified a Geophysical survey company capable of completing this survey using a special kind of magnetometer called a horizontal gradiometer. A gradiometer is able to detect localized magnetic field gradients and improves the ability to isolate the presence of a steel object from the normal ups and downs of the earth's magnetic field. Successful funding of this project will pay for a gradiometer survey of 100 square miles with passes every 400m - 10 times the resolution of the existing data set. A small portion of the funding will also be used to purchase used HD video equipment to document the expedition. All other expenses will be paid by the individuals traveling to Newfoundland for the search in July.
If U-656 is located, only pictures and video will be taken. U-656 is a war grave and will be treated with respect. Much of the search area is shallower than 100m, and divers will be ready to dive on the site using tri-mix rebreathers. Our goal is to leave a laser-engraved titanium plaque on the site as a memorial to the 45 man crew and a marker of the loss and discovery. A replica of this plaque is available to backers at the Vice Admiral and Admiral levels.
This is your opportunity to forever link your name to the story of U-656. Please check out our exclusive backer rewards and donate today while time and supplies last. We must commit to the aerial survey by June 23rd for it to happen this year, so time is short!
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Risks and challenges
Our goal is to complete the aerial gradiometer survey before we arrive in Newfoundland July 17th so we can investigate all targets uncovered by the survey. Weather is a risk that could affect both the aerial survey and the target investigation with sonar and camera. Bad weather days are built into the expedition plan, and the trip is planned for the calmest time of year in the North Atlantic.
The search utilizes high tech equipment. We expect it to keep operating as it has for many years, but equipment malfunction is a risk. We will have two side scan sonar systems and two drop-down cameras on hand.
The detection of man-made steel objects using magnetic data depends on several factors including the mass of steel, the depth of the water, the elevation of the plane and the angle to the target. Every effort has been made to select the proper search parameters for U-656. The search will cover 100 square miles with flight lines 400m apart. The gradiometer configuration will be used to improve detection capability.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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