Lasers help tell story of German sub that sank 74 years ago

The U-boat seems to loom out of the blackness, careening to starboard, as if to avoid a collision.

As it glides by in the image, its deck gun is unmanned, its conning tower empty, the wooden deck plates are rotted away.

It is German submarine U-576, Kapitanleutnant Hans-Dieter Heinicke, in command.

And as it "passes," its outline appears in laser-generated colors of fluorescent blues and greens.

It's a ghost ship, resting in darkness in about 700 feet of water off North Carolina since 1942, with Heinicke and 44 sailors entombed within.

But a National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) laser survey has now revealed the boat in high-resolution, somewhat psychedelic detail.

"It's the clearest picture I've seen of any U-boat on the seabed," said Joe Hoyt, a senior NOAA archaeologist who helped direct the project. "It's a pretty stunning image. . . . For me, it's kind of the beginning of a new era of what's possible."

"We're at a point now with marine science and technology that we can visualize these things in a way that we couldn't before," he said. "Our goal here is to sort of virtually raise (these vessels) . . . essentially bringing these stories to the surface."

The survey stems from an expedition two summers ago, in which technicians and maritime archaeologists from NOAA and other agencies descended to the bottom in submersibles to study the wreck about 35 miles off Ocracoke, N.C.

Among other things, a complex laser scan was conducted to get a clear picture of what r....

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