Operation Bassgeiger

bass viol

'Bassgeiger' was a German undertaking to land and operate a meteorological team on the eastern coast of Greenland (2 October 1943 /3 June 1944).

Since September 1943 a German meteorological team had been working under the leadership of Dr Heinrich Schatz at about 77° N off the eastern coast of Greenland in the specially adapted Coburg, a 344-ton former trawler completed in 1938, which had departed Narvik in German-occupied northern Norway during the previous month.

Coburg was operated by an 18-man crew and carried eight meteorologists and a mass of specialist equipment, and her task in the initial 'Viola' was to establish an automated weather station on the island of Bjørnøya to the south of Spitsbergen and thus mid-way between the North Cape of Norway and the eastern coast of Greenland.

On 15 March 1943, Coburg departed Norway under escort of U-657 to establish the weather station on Bjørnøya. Then, on 28 August, she sailed from Narvik on 'Bassgeiger' to Greenland.

After the vessel had been separated from her escorting U-boat in a storm, she continued toward Greenland but became trapped by ice off the Île de France, some 90 miles (145 km) off the coast of Greenland, but eventually made landfall at Cape Sussi on Shannon island on 16 October after the crew had used explosive to blast a passage almost to Shannon island. The US Coast Guard cutter Northland of the Greenland Patrol failed to spot the ship.

There the vessel remained and the meteorological team managed to salve most of the specialist equipment as the ice started to crush Coburg.

Coburg's complement spent the winter in snow caves, living on supplies dropped to them from the air. In November or December 1943, the Danish Slædepatruljen Sirius discovered the camp, but was unable to mount an attack at the time. In the spring of 1944, the meteorological team’s weather broadcasts were detected and reported by a US listening station on Jan Mayen island, and on 22 April a six-man US sledge patrol found and attacked the German camp. During the fight the German military commander, Leutnant Zacher, was killed, but the men of the sled patrol then withdrew. On 6 May, as a result of crush damage by the ice, Coburg was scuttled and abandoned, but the meteorological term was able to remain operational for another two months to 3 June, when the German camp was evacuated by a Junkers Ju 290 four-engined long-range transport aeroplane aircraft of the 2./Fernaufklärungsgruppe 5 and brought back to Trondheim.

The burned-out wreck of Coburg was discovered on 24 July 1944 by the US Coast Guard cutter Northland, whose crew destroyed what was left of the weather station.