Bronze eagle retrieved from sunken German WWII battleship off Uruguay

Divers working in the muddy River Plate have unbolted and scooped up a heavy bronze eagle from the Admiral Graf Spee, a famed German World War II battleship, salvagers said Friday.

Hector Bado, a leader of the recovery team, said three divers working in swirling waters off the riverside capital of Montevideo had to loosen about 145 heavy bolts to extricate the eagle, which stands some 2 meters (6 feet) tall and weighs more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds).

"The eagle is really impressive. As it's fashioned from bronze, it's all virtually intact," exclaimed Bado, speaking by telephone with The Associated Press.

He said the eagle, which had been bolted on the stern of the warship, had outspread wings spanning 2.8 meters (more than six feet) from tip to tip. Crews used a special barge with floating crane to lift it from the water, and he said they were taking it to port for safekeeping.

"When it emerged from the water held by steel cables by the crane, it was just spectacular, something unreal," he said in the telephone interview.

The salvage barge brought the eagle back to port later Friday, its claws and the swastika in its center shrouded in a yellow tarp.

A cruise ship that had docked recently also disembarked curious tourists who crowded around as the eagle was taken into storage at an Uruguayan customs warehouse at dockside in the old port.

The Graf Spee, a "pocket battleship," was considered one of the most sophisticated vessels of its time.

It prowled the South Atlantic, sinking as many as nine allied merchant ships before warships from Britain and New Zealand tracked it down and damaged it during the "Battle of the River Plate" that began on Dec. 13, 1939, reports AP.


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