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Baltictech group re-examines wreck of SS Karlsruhe

Last week, the Tri-City group of technical divers Baltictech, once again visited the wreck of the German steamer Karlsruhe. In recent months, Polish divers and the wreck they are investigating have made headlines all over the world due to the potential cargo that may be hidden in the hold of the SS Karlsruhe. Could there
Published: December 7, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:39
Baltictech group re-examines wreck of SS Karlsruhe

Last week, the Tri-City group of technical divers Baltictech, once again visited the wreck of the German steamer Karlsruhe.

In recent months, Polish divers and the wreck they are investigating have made headlines all over the world due to the potential cargo that may be hidden in the hold of the SS Karlsruhe. Could there really be an amber chamber among the many crates? We will hopefully find out soon.

ROV camera view of the Karlsruhe wreck
The exploration of the wreck took place using an ROV robot fot Baltictech

This time the research expedition had a slightly different character and no exploratory dives were carried out, but a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used to survey the wreck. The whole operation took place under the supervision of the Maritime Office Inspector from Gdynia, and the survey work was conducted from the research vessel R/V Mintaka I.

Thanks to the excellent efficiency of the MEWO surveyors, for three days we surveyed about 4 km2 of the seabed with the multibeam, and the ROV spent several hours in the water, providing a large amount of new footage,” say Baltictech members

The SS Karlsruhe was built in the G. Seebec shipyard Bremerhaven in 1905, and was almost 67 metres long and just over 10 metres wide. On its last voyage, the steamer set off 40 years later from Piława, which was then one of Königsberg’s ports.

Last week we finished another research expedition on the Karlsruhe wreck.
This time without diving, but only by …

Posted by Baltictech on Monday, December 7, 2020

When the vessel left port on 12 April 1945, 150 soldiers of the “Herman Gornig” regiment, 25 railway workers and 888 refugees were on board. Including the crew, the total number of people on board was 1083.

At the end of the cruise, we observed a minute’s silence for the deaths of 970 German refugees and 6 Soviet airmen. A rainbow, which appeared exactly at that moment, added magic to the whole event. After a thorough examination of the seabed around Karlsruhe, we were able to confirm the presence of a second wreck, just 550m from ‘our’ steamer. Is this vessel related to the events of 13 April 1945? This is what the next research will show – summarise the participants of the expedition

However, people were not the only ones on board the Karlsruhe. Information gathered indicates that the ship left the port in great haste and with a large cargo, shortly after the ordered evacuation of Königsberg. The steamer took on board a total of 360 tons of “returnable goods” in uneven crates and military vehicles.

Preparing the ROV for immersion
Modern technology is increasingly helping in the exploration of Baltic wrecks fot Baltictech

As we expected, there was a lot of equipment dumped around the wreck, especially in front of the bow. On the bottom we found 10 boxes and a lot of other small things. Some of the boxes were open. The contents of one of them with special rubber seals gives hope that these are some valuable objects, maybe paintings? Our ROV was not able to determine the content of the other boxes,” reads the summary of the latest expedition

As you can see, the wreck of the SS Karlsruhe still raises more questions than it answers, but hopefully this will soon change. This year’s offshore activities have already been completed and now the Baltictech group will focus on working with the collected documentation, trying to be as prepared as possible for the next season. The findings so far, however, allow us to look with great optimism to the arrival of 2021, which may bring many interesting answers, and you will certainly be able to read about everything in our pages.

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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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