Sunken WWII submarine a big draw for divers

The remains of the German World War II submarine U533 lie at a depth of 112 metres off the coast of Fujairah.

Jeffrey Catanjal took specialised training so he could dive deep enough to reach the sunken Second World War u-boat. Reem Mohammed / The National
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FUJAIRAH // Just 25 nautical miles off the coast of Fujairah there lies a wreck of a Second World War German U-boat.

Submarine U533 lies 112 metres down – off limits to all but highly trained and dedicated divers and, therefore, a challenge too delicious to miss for some adventurers.

Scuba diving instructor Jeffrey Catanjal undertook special training just to be able to get to the U-boat.

“It seemed impossible for me to go there three years ago,” the Filipino diver said.

But then he made his first successful dive on May 15 this year.

It was such an incredible experience that he has returned several times over the summer.

In June, he was accompanied by Dubai diving enthusiast Steven Boyle.

The two used sonar and GPS equipment to drop lines from their boat to the sea floor close to the submarine.

That took about an hour, with another 30 minutes to review their diving plan. Finally, they were able to drop overboard into the vast blue and take their adventure downward towards a piece of living history.

On October 16, 1943, the submarine was charging its batteries on the surface off Fujairah when it was hit by a British bomber.

The only survivor, Gunther Schmidt, was picked up by fishermen from Fujairah after two days at sea.

The submarine was one of a fleet of 30 sent to the Indian Ocean during the Second World War.

“Only eight of them actually made it,” said filmmaker Jonathan Ali Khan, who is hoping to make a film about the submarine. Khan found out that U533 had a mission to enter the Arabian Gulf and intercept US tankers carrying crude oil out of Kuwait.

“There was a lot of activity going on in this region, which many people were not aware of,” he said.

The submarine is not the only wreck on the seabed off the east coast.

Bill Leeman, who made the first successful dive to U533 a decade ago, has a passion for exploring sunken ships and has trained Mr Catanjal and many others to follow him into the depths.

He has explored several wrecks off the east-coast.

Days after reaching the submarine he became the first man to dive to the shipwrecked Anita – more than 90 metres down – and was the first to dive to the Innis wreck, situated at 73 metres, as well as well as two deep wrecks in Musandam.

“It was really about the adventure just to find things that nobody had ever seen before,” he said. “I nearly died a few times.

“I have had probably one or two really good dives on it,” he said. “It is a lot of work, a lot of effort just to get out there and sometimes you don’t even get there.”