Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Police investigating suspicious researchers: Claim to be searching for German WWII wreck

By Staff

  • The research vessel Seen through the windows on the bridge of Coast Guard vessel Þór which escorted the vessel to harbour. Photo/The Icelandic Coast Guard

On Sunday morning the Icelandic Coast Guard vessel Þór brought a Norwegian research vessel, Seabed Constructor, to harbour in Reykjavík. As the ship came to harbour Police entered the ship to investigate its logs and equipment, while the crew was taken in for questioning. The ship is suspected of having engaged in illegal and unauthorized marine research in Icelandic waters.

Suspicious research
The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service reported on Saturday RÚV that the Coast Guard had sent one of its vessels and a helicopter to intercept the Norwegian research vessel. The vessel had left Reykjavík on March 22, heading south-east of the Icelandic coast. The Coast Guard grew suspicious when the ship stopped 120 nautical miles SE off Iceland. When contacted by the Coast Guard the ship crew gave contradictory answers as to what they were doing. The Coast Guard therefore decided to request the ship return to harbour immediately.

Read more: Suspected treasure hunters stopped at sea off the Westfjords

Seabed constructor

Seabed constructor A state of the art research vessel looking for a mysterious treasure. Photo/Icelandic Coast Guard

The authorities suspect the ship, which is rented to a British research company Advanced Marine Services, was engaged in unauthorized research of Icelandic waters. A lawyer for the company told RÚV that the company believes it had been operating within the law as it had been searching for the wreck of a German cargo vessel which sunk at the site in 1939 shortly after the outbreak of WWII. Legal experts who spoke with RÚV said Icelandic and international law permit anyone to search for or explore shipwrecks without first applying for a permit.

A German vessel carrying an unknown cargo
The wreck the Norwegian research vessel was exploring is that of SS Minden, a German transport vessel which was scuttled by its crew when two English cruisers caught it trying to run the UK naval blockade between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The vessel was on its way back from S. America to Germany. Rather than have the Royal Navy capture the ship, and its cargo, the crew scuttled the vessel.

The waters around Iceland contain numerous shipwrecks from WWII. Including the wreck of the HMS Hood, the flagship of the Royal Navy which was sunk in one of the greatest naval battles of history off the w. coast of Iceland by the German battleship Bismarck.

Read more: The mission of the Octopus revealed: The recovery of HMS Hood‘s bell

A spokesman for the Icelandic Coast Guard told RÚV that the crew members had told investigators that they had been searching for valuable minerals onboard the wreck of SS Minden. This claim surprised historians, as there are no records of the German cargo vessel having carried valuables: All documents indicate the ship was carrying a cargo of industrial resin. 

A historian who RÚV spoke to said that while he was unaware of the ship carrying anything beside the resin, the British researchers must know something more about the cargo, if they are willing to send an expensive expedition to search for the wreck.


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