08/26/09

Scientists scour 'Graveyard of the Atlantic'

It’s called the graveyard of the Atlantic.

Sunken Navy ships and merchant vessels mingle with wildlife, remnants from what’s known as the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II.

“It’s pretty surprising to a lot of people that there were all these operations happening, literally within sight of shore,” said Joe Hoyt, the principal investigator of a month-long research project on the battle.

Divers from Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in Virginia have been studying the World War II shipwrecks for the past month. The research has been done in two phases. First, scientists used side-scan sonar to find deep water shipwrecks near Cape Hatteras.

“We have identified a couple new sites there that we’re not sure what they are yet,” Hoyt said.

Researchers spent the second half studying parts of a British merchant ship, the HMT Bedfordshire, which was torpedoed in 1942.

“On the bottom, as a result, the bow is broken off,” Hoyt said. “It’s sitting about 75 feet off by the main section, and there’s lots of twisted metal.”

The scientists, who set sail every day from Beaufort, N.C., also got a good look at the marine life at the sites. Researchers say the discoveries can help enlighten people on an important part of the nation’s history.

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