Kriegsmarine Prinz Eugen was a German Admiral Hipper class Heavy Cruiser. It is probably most famous for it's battle in May of 1941, when the Bismark and the Prinz Eugen sank the British Battle Cruiser HMS Hood. At the end of World War II the Prinz Eugen was surrendered to the British.
In 1946 the Prinz Eugen was part of the great fleet of ships taken to Bikini Atoll and used as target vessels in atomic bomb tests. It survived two atom bomb blasts, Able, an airburst at 520 ft. altitude, the world's fourth atom bomb, and Baker, an underwater detonation (90 ft. deep), the world's fifth atom bomb. Both bombs were Mk 3A "Fat Man" type, and each produced a 23 kiloton explosive yield.
Able (left) and Baker (right) Official US Government Images
Click here to see a .mpeg movie of the Able shot! (307K)
Click here to see a .mpg movie of the Baker shot! (404K)
The radioactive ships that "survived" those bomb blasts were towed to Kwajalein lagoon and then towed out to deeper water and scuttled. But the Prinz Eugen had been weakened by the shock of the two blasts at Bikini, and when a storm hit Kwajalein Lagoon the ship began taking on water. As the Prinz Eugen was sinking in Kwajalein Lagoon an attempt was made to tow it to deeper water, but it ended up running aground on the reef at Enubuj (Carlson) Island. As it sank against the reef it rolled onto it's starboard side and then all the way over, almost upside down.
The Prinz Eugen's stern now lies on the reef with the rudder and two of the propeller shafts above the surface of the water (the port prop was removed years ago and taken to a museum in Germany). The bow is 100 ft. deep, suspended over the still deeper floor of Kwajalein Lagoon.
In the early 1980s oil was continuously leaking from several places on the inverted hull of the Prinz Eugen creating the oil slick seen here. Viewed underwater the drops of black oil leaking from orifices in the hull looked sort of like black peppers rising toward the surface.
The starboard prop is just below the surface of the lagoon, always a great place for snorkelling between deep dives.
As The Prinz Eugen rolled onto it's starboard side it's masts were crushed away towards the port side. This is (I think) the Admiral's Bridge, which was high on the Main Mast.
The Prinz Eugen had four main gun turrets, each with two 8 inch guns. These are the "C" and "D" turrets, toward the stern. There were also many smaller guns at various places on the ship.
This is the torpedo locker on the port side boat-deck. The Prinz Eugen carried 12 deck mounted torpedo tubes, two sets of three tubes on each side of the ship.
Inside the Prinz Eugen's officer's quarters.
Because the ship came to rest upside down on the lagoon floor, the interior of the ship could be very disorienting. And since it had been rusting and deteriorating in the salty water for 40 years, it took very little to dislodge heavy metal parts which were hanging from above. Even the bubbles of a passing diver could cause a dangerous collapse.
Several years before I began diving the Prinz Eugen in 1982 two Kwajalein divers got lost inside the wreck and drowned.
Another view from inside the Eugen's officer's quarters.
A head (toilet) on the Prinz Eugen.
654 ft. from the stern and 100 ft. down!
The Prinz Eugen's bow hangs projected in mid water, supported by the ship's crushed superstructure.
Text and Photos © 1999 by Bob Hampton All Rights Reserved