WRECKS OF THE VISTULA BAY 2012 February 22, 2012 InTrips The Region of the Vistula Lagoon has always raised great emotions among treasure seekers. Legend has it that during evacuation of German armies, in the winter of 1945, thousands of people drowned there and numerous equipment sank. As a kid, I lived in Elbląg and in the summer we went to bathe at the Spites. Even then – and it was 25 years after the war, the locals did not want to bathe in the Lagoon – they always preferred open sea. They told us that for years water had been throwing out the bodies of runaways, and the eels were so big, because they always had something to it eat – in fact, for many years nobody in this area ate eels. Forests were then still full of abandoned war gear and misfires – and we, of course, played with all this with pleasure. Water in the Lagoon has always been brown, and the bottom was unusually muddy. Only once my uncle took me to the Lagoon and told me to put my sneakers on, “because there is a lot of scrap at the bottom”. I lost my sneaker already after the first step on the muddy bottom 😉 For this reason, the lagoon never enjoyed interest of divers. Because how could you dive in such conditions? And nevertheless, if there is something to find, it probably lingers a few meters under the mud. However, in May last year the crew from the Sea Office in Gdynia during routine works encountered 4 vehicles, looking as if they had gone in one line, approximately 20 -100 m away from each other. You don’t have to be an expert to recognize, in the following photos, military vehicles from the times of World War II. source: Sea Office in Gdynia The strangest thing was that the vehicles did not get stuck in the mud at all and were very visible what is important, the depth of the lake ranges from 2 to 4 m near the wrecks, it did not exceed 3.8 m The Sea Office informed the Central Maritime Museum, which, in turn, applay to the military experts from the Sopot Friends Association. We, as Baltictech could perform the whole underwater part of the works. The legend is one thing, but the facts are that in January 1945 the Red Army surrounded big German forces in the southern area of the Vistula Lagoon. within two days,23-25 January, the Soviet troops blocked all land paths leading to the forces located on the western side of the Vistula river. The Lagoon was frozen, but, interestingly, the navigation trail from Elbląg to the open sea was still maintained. During the day icebreakers crushed the ice. In the night, sapper divisions built primitive crossing of bulrush and wood, on which the civilians and the army wandered to the west. Sometimes Soviet planes came and bombarded the ice, burying, at the same time, thousands of people under water. One of the escape routes was the road on the ice from Tolkmicka to Krynica Morska and in this very area the Sea Office encountered “our” vehicles. Stock-taking had been planned for the autumn of last year. We met in Tolkmicko in the morning of 20 September, and after a brief discussion we set off. I wondered how I would dive in the water with such limited visibility. After a few minutes we were above the position, with the depth of 3 m, but I doubted whether we could find above in such conditions, without catching the wreck with a grapnel. Well, we jumped in after hearing the words “shipwreck under us” groping, I reached the bottom and I started to turn to the right and to the left with my hands stretched out, hoping to find something. Unfortunately, after a few minutes I did no longer know where I was, I came back to the surface, to catch the shipwreck with an anchor. After a moment, we had the shipwreck caught and I came back to the water. I the beginning, everything which got in my hands seem to be a gun or human bones, usually, however, it was a piece of wood;-) It took me a few minutes to get used to the situation, then I noticed that when I closed my eyes, the brain recognized the objects better only by rouching them, I slowly started to recognize the car elements, after 10 minutes I knew whether I was at the front or at the back of the vehicle. At this depth I did not have to hurry. Before entering the water, we tried to remember as much as possible from the sonar picture and now I tried to reconstruct this image under water. At the first vehicle, we weren’t very lucky – it was strongly damaged, and the parts were scattered all around. For identification purposes we took a piece of a window and a light to the surface, and those parts, let the experts identify the vehicle as a 3.5 ton truck RENAULT AHN which, supposedly, was often used by Germans until the end of the war We were more lucky at the second wreck. After going to the water, my hands and brain worked much faster 😉 I literally felt that I was touching history. The fact that I saw nothing jogged my imagination even more. I had a lot of time and I wondered how the driver of this car had felt when he had heard approaching planes and he had been in the middle of a frozen reservoir. After a moment, I felt the steering wheel and the driver’s seat, everywhere on the floor I found scattered bullets, I could clearly feel the accelerator and the brake and the gearshift sticks. If this soldier had carried something valuable, he had probably kept it close, under the seat I felt an oval shape, and I pulled it outside. It felt like a grenade. I went up to the surface of to check it – it actually was a grenade. Then I thought that for the truck driver it had probably been the most precious thing and he had kept it “at hand” I came back down and again, systematically, started to grope the wreck. Tomek Trojanowicz, who was with me, was more lucky, because he took out a beautiful ebonite field telephone which was given to the Museum for renovation – we left other finding as their place After longer diving and exchange of information, our experts came to a conclusion that the vehicle at which we we were diving was quite a treat, because it was a 3 ton German airport tanker, Mercedes Benz LG 3000 KFZ 384. I could easily feel a huge tank, taps, tubes and wheels in a perfect condition – still with air inside. Another vehicle on the sonar image, resembled a popular “Kibelwagen” Unfortunately, at the bottom it seemed to be very damaged, and many elements disintegrated in our fingers. We couldn’t identify the next vehicle, maybe it was damaged during bombing. In the evening we returned to the port, where the fishermen told us stories about other objects and countless scrap found there after the war. Being there at the bottom, I had not a slightest doubt, that I was the first to be there. At this depth the wrecks are easily accessible not only for divers. Each fisherman knows his region ideally and these vehicles had been surely “dredged” may times before we came. They no longer have cargo, but these objects are nevertheless so interesting that it is planned to pull them out this year.