Surprise Location of S.M.D. Scharnhorst Near Falklands

A sonar image of the S.M.S. Scharnhorst, which sank in the south Atlantic on December 8, 1914 (Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust)

German Ship Sunk During WWI Found Off Falkland Islands

by Jason Daley/

Maritime archaeologists have located the wreck of the S.M.S. Scharnhorst, an armored battle cruiser that served as the flagship of German Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee’s East Asia Squadron during World War I, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust announced this week.

The Scharnhorst sank in the south Atlantic on December 8, 1914, with more than 800 crew members onboard. The cruiser was one of four German ships lost during the Battle of the Falkland Islands; according to official dispatches, two support vessels from the squadron were later evacuated and scuttled.

Per a press release, the heritage trust started looking for the sunken ships on the centenary of the battle in 2014. Initial search attempts were unsuccessful, but archaeologists recently returned to the site of the naval engagement with state-of-the-art subsea exploration equipment, including a specialized vessel called the Seabed Constructor and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

As Tom Metcalfe reports for Live Science, the team located the wreckage of the Scharnhorst after one of the AUVs deviated from its search path to scan another section of the ocean floor. The AUV passed over the wreck as it changed direction, but scientists only noticed the anomaly hours later, when the craft was recovered and its data converted into a readable format.

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