The wreck of German cruiser «Karlsruhe» found

The last of the large German warships sunk during the Second World War has been found at 490 meters depth 13 nautical miles south-east of Kristiansand on the Norwegian south coast. «Karlsruhe» took part in the attack on Norway on April 9, 1940.

The wreck of German cruiser «Karlsruhe» found
Sonar image of Karlsruhe in 490 meters depth. Photo: Statnett


The wreck of German cruiser «Karlsruhe» found

The last of the large German warships sunk during the Second World War has been found at 490 meters depth 13 nautical miles south-east of Kristiansand on the Norwegian south coast. «Karlsruhe» took part in the attack on Norway on April 9, 1940.

  6. September 2020
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The wreck was found after the discovery of a large sonar shadow near one of the subsea power cables between Norway and Denmark during inspection work in 2017, NRK writes.

This summer Statnett project engineer Ole Petter Hobberstad and his colleague André Waldorff got the chance to have a closer look at what was lying on the seabed just 15 meters from the cable.

What they saw in the deep probably left everyone on board the offshore supply ship «Olympic Taurus» speechless.


The light cruiser «Karlsruhe» took part in the attack on Norway on April 9, 1940. Photo: Kriegsmarine

Found «Karlsruhe»

– When we saw that the ship seemed to have been torpedoed we realized it had to be from WWII. As the cannons appeared spirits soared and we understood this was a huge shipwreck. We were really taken aback by the size, Hobberstad tells

Comparing sonar images, ROV images and the position of the wreck all pointed in the same direction – it was the light cruiser «Karlsruhe» which was standing on its keel on the seabed.

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Photos: Statnett

Lead the attack on Kristiansand

«Karlsruhe» was built by Deutsche Werke in Kiel in 1927 and was the flagship of the German fleet that steamed towards Kristiansand early in the morning on April 9, 1940, during Operation Weserübung – the attack on Denmark and Norway.

Sonar image

Sonar image of the wreck of «Karlsruhe». Photo: Statnett

The German attackers came under fire from defensive gun positions at Odderøya and had to retreat twice. The third time the German flag was mistakenly thought to be French, and the ships were able to enter the harbor unopposed and take Kristiansand.

During the battle, the German freighter M/V Seattle was sunk. The wreck rests at 26–72 meters depth just outside Kristiansand and is one of Norway's best wreck dives.

Attacked by a British submarine

When returning to Germany «Karlsruhe» was spotted by the British submarine HMS Truant, which fired several torpedoes. Two hits damaged the 174-meter long warship so badly that Kapitän zur See Friedrich Rieve ordered the crew to abandon ship.

Light cruiser ««Karlsruhe»»
Built: 1927 by Deutsche Werke, Kiel
Deplacement: 6 730 dead weight tons
Dimensions: 174 x 16,6 x 6,3 meters
Propulsion: 6 oil-fired boilers, 4 steam turbines, 2 MAN 10-cylinder Type W diesel engines, 2 propellers 4,10 meter in diameter
Maximum speed: 30 knots
Armament: 9 x 15 cm cannons in rotating turrets, 4 x 8,8 cm, 8 x 3,7 cm and 8 x 2 cm anti-aircraft guns
Torpedoes: 12 x 53,3 cm torpedo tubes
Mines: 120 mines
Aircraft: 2 x Heinkel He 60
Crew: 514 to 850 men

«Karlsruhe» was then sunk by the torpedo boat Greif with two torpedoes and disappeared below the surface. It has never been clear exactly where the light cruiser met her fate or where she ended up.

The positions given after the sinking by both German and British personnel were about 10 nautical miles from where «Karlsruhe» now has been located, and it was just coincidence that led to her being found.

HMS Truant

HMS Truant. Photo: Royal Navy

A rare sight

– «Karlsruhe» is standing upright on her keel 490 meters below the surface with her guns pointing ominously out at sea. With nine 150 millimeter cannons in three turrets she was the largest and most fearsome ship in the attack fleet against Kristiansand, says archeologist Frode Kalvø at the Norwegian Maritime Museum.

Usually, a large warship with a high center of gravity will turn around when they sink. The images of «Karlsruhe» standing upright on the seafloor is a rare and unusual sight indeed.

The approximate position of the «Karlsruhe» – unfortunately far too deep for divers.

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