PADI, Project AWARE: Preserve the U-701, Respect Our Wrecks

6/29/2004 5:05:38 PM
Note: The following is a message courtesy of PADI America and Project AWARE Foundation.

The wreck of the U-701 was originally discovered by a small group of divers in the coastal waters off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 1989. The location of the wreck and the site remained a closely guarded secret and therefore undisturbed for the past 15 years. The U-701 represents a virtually intact, pristine wreck site and a unique opportunity to explore and experience an unspoiled U-boat within recreational diving depths on the East Coast of the United States.

Recently, the vessel's location has been rediscovered and the coordinates have become accessible to the general public, who have already begun diving the site. An overwhelming majority of the local recreational and wreck diving community is deeply concerned about the potential for disturbance, damage and loss resulting from unauthorized salvage. And, we thought you might share this concern.

As divers, with privileged access to underwater wreck sites that are part of a cultural heritage, we have a responsibility to preserve them for future generations. The U-701 is a war grave and part of the world's underwater cultural heritage. This is why Project AWARE Foundation and PADI are committed to a "Respect Our Wrecks" campaign and ethic that promotes diver access and responsible interactions. As a non-consumptive user group of the U-701, we can lead the charge for wreck conservation by adhering to and promoting the following considerations while diving this historic site:

  • Respect the heritage and loss. The U-701 is the final resting place for those who gave their lives while serving their nation. Protect underwater graves as you would any other memorial site.
  • Respect the environment. Fine tune your buoyancy, streamline your equipment, use a mooring line instead of an anchor and avoid touching the wreck with your hands, knees or fins.
  • Respect others. Resist the temptation to remove anything from the U-701 wreck site. As divers we are merely visitors. We're responsible for leaving wrecks as we find them.
  • Respect your limitations. Seek additional training with a qualified PADI Instructor prior to wreck diving activities.
  • Respect the law. Know and obey all local laws and regulations when wreck diving on this site.
  • Respect safety. Many military vessels still contain hazardous materials such as oil, firearms and munitions. Do not recover or interfere with dangerous materials on the U-701.
  • Respect history and archeology. Shipwrecks, such as the U-701, hold clues to our maritime past. Don't disturb these historical sites.

By following these guidelines, divers also minimize their risk of being denied access to underwater cultural heritage sites in the future. Any diver interested in accessing the U-701 should know that international law and US law governs the unauthorized disturbance or removal of items from the vessel. On January 19, 2001, a Presidential Statement was issued on the United States' Policy for the Protection of Sunken State Craft. The policy states that all government vessels, of both U.S. and foreign governments, remain the property of those governments, regardless of location or length of time since the vessel was lost at sea. In addition, no one is allowed to disturb or remove objects from these vessels without the permission of the government vessel's owner. In 2003, the German government stated that no one is to disturb sunken German State Craft without the permission of the German government.

For more information on German policies governing the U-701, see the attached Public Notice from the U.S. State Department. For further details on Project AWARE's Respect Our Wrecks campaign, visit the Project AWARE Foundation website at http://www.projectaware.org/americas/english/row.asp.

Sincerely,

Kristin Valette
Executive Director
Project AWARE Foundation

Jeff Nadler
Vice President, Membership Programs
PADI Americas