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.
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?
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.