Wreck of German WWI battlecruiser discovered off Falkland Islands in ‘major breakthrough’

The wreck of an armored German battlecruiser used during World War I has been discovered off the Falkland Islands, the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust announced on Thursday, calling it “a major breakthrough.” 

Footage released by the trust shows the remains of the SMS Scharnhorst, the flagship of Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee’s East Asia Squadron, which was sunk during the Battle of the Falkland Islands on Dec. 8, 1914, with 800 men aboard.

“This discovery is a major breakthrough in the quest to locate all of the ships that comprised the German squadron lost during the battle,” the trust said in a press release

“The moment of discovery was extraordinary,” said Mensun Bound, the leader of the search. “We sent down an ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) to explore and almost straight away we were into a debris field that said ‘battle.’ Suddenly she just came out of the gloom with great guns poking in every direction.”

The search began on the centenary of the battle in December 2014 but was initially unsuccessful, according to the trust. Five years later, the mission resumed with state of the art subsea search equipment. 

“Working methodically through the designated search area, and using equipment including side-scan sonar and a multi-beam echo-sounder, Scharnhorst was discovered on the third day of the search 98 nautical miles southeast of Port Stanley at a depth of 1610 meters,” the release said. 

The search for the wreck began in December 2014, on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Falkland Islands. It was a crucial naval battle in the early days of WWI, according to the trust. 

Storyful contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.