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80 years have passed since the Eagle's last voyage - the search for the legendary ship begins

The National Programme for the Search for the Wreck of the Polish Submarine ORP Orzeł is launched. Exactly 80 years ago the submarine Orzeł set sail on its last voyage and the location of its wreck still remains a mystery. To commemorate this special anniversary, a National Programme is being launched by the Wreck Expedition
Published: May 22, 2020 - 12:35
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 19:50
80 years have passed since the Eagle’s last voyage – the search for the legendary ship begins

The National Programme for the Search for the Wreck of the Polish Submarine ORP Orzeł is launched. Exactly 80 years ago the submarine Orzeł set sail on its last voyage and the location of its wreck still remains a mystery. To commemorate this special anniversary, a National Programme is being launched by the Wreck Expedition Association in cooperation with the Maritime University of Szczecin. The programme is organised under the patronage of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation.

The official launch of the National Programme took place on 13 May 2020, when the Wreck Expeditions Association and the Maritime Academy in Szczecin signed a letter of intent and began preparations for the search for the wreck of the pride of the Polish fleet.

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Thanks to the National Programme, there is a unique opportunity to find the Eagle’s resting place and thus commemorate the seamen with dignity. We know that their families have been waiting for decades to find out where and in what circumstances their loved ones died. The cooperation with the Maritime University in Szczecin, as well as the comprehensive assistance from the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland and the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation bring the solution to the mystery of the Eagle closer. Moreover, our experience in searching for lost wrecks gives us a good chance for success,” says Mariusz Borowiak, president of the Wreck Expeditions Association.

2nd ORP Orzeł, photo collection of Maciej Dąbrowski

The Association has already been involved in finding the wreck of the Polish escort destroyer ORP Kujawiak off the coast of Malta. For many years it has also conducted numerous researches in Polish and foreign archives. It is worth emphasising, however, that the search for the wreck of the Eagle will be extremely difficult due to the large area to be searched and the unpredictability and caprices of the North Sea. The knowledge of specialists from the Maritime Academy in Szczecin may prove invaluable. The co-ordinator of the activities on the part of the Maritime University of Szczecin is Dr.-Ing. Capt. Arkadiusz Tomczak prof.

For many years we have been trying to find a partner who would engage with us in the search for the wreck. We contacted many companies and institutions, but only the Maritime University of Szczecin fully believed in our idea, which makes us extremely happy. Together we could create the National Programme for the Search for the Eagle and we have a great chance of finding its wreck,” stresses Piotr Wytykowski, Vice-President of the Wreck Expeditions Association.

The submarine ORP Orzeł was one of the most modern Polish vessels during World War II. The construction of Orzeł in the Netherlands was financed mostly by voluntary contributions of the Polish society – a unique achievement not only in Europe, but also in the world. In September 1939, the ship became famous for its daring escape from internment in Tallinn. Then the crew led the unit through the Baltic Sea and the Danish Straits to Great Britain, navigating only on the basis of maps recreated from memory by Lt. Mariner Marian Mokrski. Orzeł, under the command of Capt. Mariner Jan Grudziński, was also famous for sinking the German freighter Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of April 1940. The ship went on her last combat patrol exactly on 23 May 1940. During this mission she was lost without a trace and her sinking is still the biggest secret of the Polish Navy.

The National Eagle Wreck Search Programme is now entering the logistical preparation phase for its first expedition. The searchers are keen to get out to sea as soon as possible and hope to share the good news soon.

Source: Wrecking Association

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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