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An illustration shows the 3D model of the submarine "UC 1919", which sank off Heligoland in 71

Photo: - / dpa

With the help of around 30,000 photos, an international research team has created a detailed 3D model of the German submarine wreck "UC 71" from the First World War. As divers, we only ever see a small section due to the limited visibility. Now, for the first time, we can look at the entire submarine, explore it and share it with everyone who is interested," research diver and project manager Florian Huber told the German Press Agency. We have made the invisible visible.«

The submarine, built in 1916, sank off the North Sea island of Heligoland in 1919 on a transfer trip to England. With its torpedoes, mines and high-explosive shells, the boat sank 61 ships during the First World War, as Huber researched. Investigations in 2014 revealed that the crew sank their boat themselves (read more about the last voyage of "UC 71" here).

A team of researchers led by the independent Kiel research diver Huber had documented the wreck off the offshore island at a depth of 23 meters. The divers filmed with four high-resolution cameras. 30,000 photos were later extracted from these clips, which were converted into an exact digital model using software. In 2024, the 3D model will be printed, painted and shown as part of a separate exhibition at Museum Helgoland.

»A unique piece of German history preserved«

»UC 71« has been a listed building since 2012. "But after more than 100 years in the stormy and highly dynamic North Sea, the 50-metre-long wreck is slowly but inexorably disintegrating," Huber said. "For a few years now, 3D modelling has been offering underwater archaeology completely new possibilities for documenting and visualising underwater sites." The models are available for scientific documentation as well as for presentation and visualization purposes in museums.

Specialists from Finland and Scotland were also involved in the photogrammetry project. "Through the digital documentation of UC 71, a unique piece of German history can now be preserved and made accessible to a large audience," said Chris Rowland of the University of Dundee (Scotland).