Saturday, February 11, 2006

Graf Spee's Eagle Rises From The Deep

Divers have salvaged a 2m (6ft) bronze imperial eagle from the German World War II battleship Graf Spee that was scuttled in the River Plate. Three divers had to loosen 145 bolts securing the 300kg (661lb) eagle to the stern of the craft in the muddy waters off Uruguay's capital, Montevideo. "The eagle is really impressive... it's all virtually intact," said team leader Hector Bado.
The eagle's swastika was hidden as a mark of consideration
The ship was scuttled in December 1939 to stop it falling into enemy hands. Mr Bado told Associated Press news agency the eagle had a wingspan of 2.8m (9ft) and a special barge with a crane was needed to raise it from the river. The barge brought the eagle back to port on Friday with a yellow tarpaulin covering the swastika at its base - out of consideration for those who still hold strong feelings against the symbol of Nazi Germany, Mr Bado said. The eagle was taken to a customs warehouse, but not before curious cruise ship guests had had a chance to disembark and get some snapshots. The ship has lain in waters only 10m deep since its scuttling - until a project financed by private investors from the US and Europe with the backing of the Uruguayan government sought to salvage it. The operation has now been going two years. Previous items raised included a 27-tonne section of the battleship's command tower and a range-finding device for gunners.
The Graf Spee
It is hoped the vessel will become a tourist attraction in Montevideo. The Graf Spee was once a symbol of German naval might. In the early days of World War II it roamed the South Atlantic, sinking as many as nine Allied merchant ships. But during the Battle of the River Plate it received several direct hits and took refuge in Montevideo harbour. Uruguay, under diplomatic pressure from Britain, ordered the Graf Spee out to sea. And there she was scuttled by her captain, Hans Langsdorff. Capt Langsdorff committed suicide in a Buenos Aires naval camp three days later.
The Graf Spee on the sea floor

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