The Return of the 'Graf Zeppelin' First Sonar Images of 'Nazi Aircraft Carrier'

New sonar images and photographs of the gigantic wreck discovered in the Baltic Sea suggest it is indeed that of Hitler's first and only aircraft carrier, the "Graf Zeppelin."


The Polish navy has continued its exploration of the suspected final resting place of the Nazi aircraft carrier the Graf Zeppelin and have released new sonar images and photographs of the wreck. SPIEGEL ONLINE reported on Thursday that divers working for a Polish oil firm searching for oil in the Baltic Sea suspected they had found the famous war ship. The Polish navy has been examining the 250m long wreck with sonar and teams of divers, ever since suspicions were first aroused on Monday that the oil prospectors had made an important find.

"It is definitely a warship -- 100% certain," Thomas Förster of the German Maritime Museum in Stralsund told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Indications from images taken by sonar, underwater robots and divers suggest an uncanny similarity with historical images of the Graf Zeppellin. They include an apparent outline of part of the deck and the storage room where the carrier's aircraft would have been kept. But no definite proclamation of the ship's identity will be made until the name can be found engraved on the ship's hull.

The Polish navy said on Thursday it was almost certain that the wreckage belonged to the Nazi aircraft carrier, but Lieutenant Commander Bartosz Zajda told the Associated Press that, "technically it's impossible to pull it out of the water." The wreck lies 80 meters under the Baltic Sea around 55km outside the Polish harbor town of Wladyslawowo, near Gdansk.

Maritime expert Förster said, "The long cavity in the middle of the ship is probably where the flight deck caved in." Also recognizable are the raised sections on the starboard side of the hull. Models, historical photos and the ship's original plans show this was the site of the carrier's huge artillery and chimneys.

The new images will spark discussion about how the Nazi aircraft carrier finally ended up on the ocean floor. The Nazis scuttled the aircraft carrier at the end of the war, but it was subsequently refloated by the Russians. But historians are unsure if the ship struck a mine on the way to Russia, or if it was deliberately sunk. One theory suggests the aircraft carrier may have been overloaded with Nazi war bullion.

cmb/spiegel/ap

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