A WORLD War One U-boat wreck off the Irish coast has been targeted by souvenir hunters because it is not an official war grave.
The German authorities are now in talks with the Government in a bid to impose a strict exclusion zone around it. The UC-42 was laying mines off Cork harbour when it sank after detonating one of its own explosives in late September 1917.
A total of 27 crew members died when the submarine plummeted to the seabed just off Roches Point.
The vessel's location was discovered by a team of two Irish divers, Ian Kelleher and Niall O'Regan, on November 6, 2010.
They were assisted by three other divers in photographing and identifying the wreck, Eoin McGarry, Timmy Carey and Philip Johnston.
The group tried to keep the location a secret to protect it from souvenir hunters and divers who may not properly respect the wreck.
However, the UC-42's resting place eventually became widely known and it is feared some non-club divers have entered the shattered hull and attempted to take souvenirs.
A key factor is that, at a depth of just over 25 metres, the UC-42 can be accessed by virtually all divers, irrespective of their experience, whereas most U-boat wrecks off Ireland are in very deep water.
The Naval Service undertook work on it last year as they were concerned that the UC-42 still had some of its mines intact.
The Irish Independent has learned that the German Embassy has since been in contact with the Government over declaring the site an official war grave.
German Embassy and German Navy officials were deeply moved that the Irish divers who discovered the wreck placed a special memorial, complete with the Imperial German Navy insignia, on the submarine.
The divers are now hoping to trace surviving relatives in Germany of the UC-42 crew.
Eoin McGarry said the wreck deserves to be treated with dignity. "With centenaries coming up, they (U-boat crew) deserve to have their stories told," he said.