What Lies Beneath — Is a strange object on the bottom of a Canadian lake really a German U-boat?

The National Post newspaper dives into a little known Canadian legend about a long-lost German submarine.

The National Post newspaper dives into a little known Canadian legend about a long-lost German submarine.

There’s something large and mysterious resting on the bottom of a deep inlet in Labrador on Canada’s east coast. Could it be as some locals believe a German U-boat from the Second World War?

The massive object was accidentally discovered in 2010 by sonar operators trying to locate the remains of three area residents who had recently drown in Lake Melville, a large salt water inlet. While searching for the bodies, the recovery team detected portions of a 30-metre-long mass resting on the lakebed, but thick sediment prevented any sort of positive identification. Many from Labrador maintain that the recently discovered object is a Nazi sub that according to local folklore slipped into the inlet during the early 1940s and was somehow lost.

Labrador, Canada

Labrador, Canada

Such a hypothesis, while certainly incredible, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched at first glance, especially when considering how many of Hitler’s U-boats operated along eastern seaboard and deep inside the Gulf of the St. Lawrence throughout the Second World War. However the fact that the supposed U-boat wreckage lies in the far southwestern end of the inlet near the mouth of the Churchill River — more than 100 miles inland from the Atlantic — certainly raises doubts that the unknown object is an enemy submarine.

If the curious shape entombed in the murky depths does turn out to be a wartime U-boat, it would be the deepest a German sub ever penetrated into North American waterways during the conflict. Yet according to the Labrador newspaper The Aurora, German U-boats have long been rumoured to have ventured into the inlet, possibly to reconnoiter the large Allied airbase at Goose Bay. On the other hand, skeptics point out that there are no official Canadian wartime records indicating that any enemy subs were ever detected in those waters.

A fascinating story in last weekend’s National Post delves into this long-running mystery, while examining a host of other famous Canadian U-boat myths from the period and exploring why these tall tales live on.

“Almost since the opening shots of the Battle of the Atlantic, the Maritimes and the coast of Quebec have abounded with legends about U-Boats that prowled the East Coast in the latter half of the Second World War,” writes Tristan Hopper, the author of the piece.

The story presents other nuggets of Canadian U-boat lore, including:

The recurring tale that captured U-boat crews produced bus transfers from Halifax, ostensibly obtained while the submariners infiltrated the port city, possibly to hoist a few pints at sea side taverns?

Or the popular myth that German submariners re-provisioned their vessels with fruit and vegetables obtained from French Canadian grocery stories?

The story is well worth the read.

By the way, this sort of U-boat mythology is by no means unique to Canada.

A website dedicated to German submarines describes how Americans, the Irish and even New Zealanders continue to rehash a number of amazing U-boat stories of their own. Consider these:

  • As recently as 2011, the Irish Independent was investigating local legends that at least one U-boat refueled in a harbour on that country’s west coast.
  • A recurring myth emanating from the United States suggests that U-boat crews often went ashore to buy groceries in general stores up and down the coast.
  • Another tall tale reports that the crew of the U-862 operating deep in the Pacific went ashore in New Zealand and milked cows.

Sadly, these folk tales, and others, have all been proven false.

And as long as we’re on the subject of the submarine war, read about the only known and verified German military operation on North American soil. It was conducted by a U-boat crew. Hint: the item of interest is at the very bottom of the article.

Want to check out a real World War Two U-boat for yourself? A handful of them remain and some are open to the public. Read our story from 2012 about where they reside and how you can visit them.

8 comments for “What Lies Beneath — Is a strange object on the bottom of a Canadian lake really a German U-boat?

  1. 24 April, 2013 at 4:32 am

    Hey man; those are some stories that will grab you right where you’ll remember them. You certainly know how to write about these tales of daring and do. All your stories and essays are real easy to follow.

  2. 24 April, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I don’t think I’ve read a dull or uninteresting post here. Thanks for your hard work.

  3. 25 April, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Always interesting stuff here! I would be very curious to learn of whether or not it was a scuttled Nazi sub. Perhaps (if I can let my imagination run free) when peace was declared, the sub’s crew left the ship in groups about the coast to seek a new life here, then the last crewmembers scuttled her! 🙂

    One article I would be very interested to read would be one on the USS Wolverine and USS Sable…

    • 25 April, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Aside from a recon of the airbase at Goose Bay (at the time, the 2nd busiest airport in North America), I can’t imagine why a U-boat would ever go so far up an inlet. They’d be fish in a barrel. I personally don’t think it’s a U-boat — probably just a sunken ship. But it’s fun to speculate.

  4. weetam
    18 July, 2014 at 8:25 am

    there is a youtube vid of this report. it shows the images on the monitors of the crew who have been investigating it. the image on the screen certainly looks as if it is submarine shaped, and the length and dimensions certainly tally with records from the second world war.

    Whether it is or not, we shall probably never ascertain with any certainty, but if it is, it certainly would spark an intriguing mystery

    • admin
      19 July, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      I love the idea that a u-boat made it that far into North American waters, but I find it a little too hard to believe. I’d like to be proven wrong someday though!

      • weetam
        19 July, 2014 at 3:53 pm

        im not convinced that the image on the video, is a uboat, or submarine. it is the right shape, but it is too indistinct for my liking.

        have a look at the vid and decide for yourself though!

Leave a Reply