Mission to find a wreck of WWII submarine begins

ORP Orzeł disappeared some time between May and June 1940. Photo: PAP/CAF-ARCHIWUM /AW/

A team of Polish specialists launches an expedition to find the famous Polish submarine ORP “Orzeł“ that mysteriously disappeared in the Baltic Sea in the spring of 1940.

New expedition to find the wreck of Polish submarine in September

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“Santi find the Eagle” is a private initiative of Polish divers, scientists, historians, and filmmakers which aims at discovering the wreck of the ORP Orzeł. Since 2014, it launches annual missions exploring different areas of the Baltic and North Sea, areas where the submarine served before its mysterious disappearance.

It is the group’s fifth attempt to find the wreck. It did not lack successes, though. Last year a wreck of British submarine HMS “Narwhal” was discovered that was also missing since 1940.

“This year’s expedition takes us off the coast of Scotland and Denmark. Everything is set, we are ready for the mission”, Benedykt Hac, chief of the hydrographical team declared.

With the help of the Gdynia Maritime University, the team has chartered a 30-meter-long ship that will be supplied with all the necessary equipment. The mission will last for two weeks during which the team will explore 600 km of the sea bottom.

ORP “Orzeł” served in the Polish Navy during the German invasion of Poland. In September 1939 it was captured in the port of Tallinn, Estonia,with all its maps and most of the armament confiscated.

However, it miraculously managed to escape only four days later. With no navigational charts and only few torpedoes, “Orzeł” nevertheless passed the German blockade of the harbour and was off to the Baltic sea.

After 43 days “Orzeł” found shelter in the UK, where Captain Grudziński was awarded the high honour of the British Distinguished Service Order. In December 1940 “Orzeł” once again begun combat operations, with a one of its major achievements being sinking of the German “Rio de Janeiro” cargo ship that carried troops for the German invasion of Norway.

In May 1940 it set for the North Sea patrol from which it never came back. There are several hypotheses concerning its sinking, including running into a minefield, being mistakenly identified as a German U-Boat and bombed by the British Royal Air Force, or scuttling by a German warship.