Enigma Recovery

On 3 July 2001 Enigma M2946 and parts of Enigma M3131 were recovered from U-85 together with a printing device - a modified typewriter - which appears to have been connected to M2946. This feat was accomplished by divers Jim Bunch and brothers Rich and Roger Hunting - all three of whom have been diving on the wreck of U-85 for a number of years. Also recovered were a number of pages of a codebook used for flag signal communications with merchant vessels and a pad used for preparing radio messages for transmission.

VIIB.jpg (35976 bytes)

The following description is in Roger Hunting's own words - my comments [italics] and key to the above diagram in red.

"We found the Enigma on July 3, 2001. We began running an air-lift dredge operation inside the U-85 during the summer of 2000. This past summer we concentrated our efforts in the Radio Room [A] and the Sound [sonar] Room  [B]. In June we spent a week emptying out the Sound Room (we did that first since it was easier to reach). It took three divers about six days to pump out the Sound Room at 2-3 dives each per day, 30-35 minutes per dive (about 20 hours of continuous dredging). We found lots of little artifacts in the Sound Room, probably the most significant was a large brass compass, a wooden box of phonograph records and the stack of Enigma log sheets. We then moved to the Radio Room, which was considerably more difficult to dredge because of its location and the volume of debris to be removed. On the third day of dredging, we uncovered the Enigma [M2946] laying on the floor about in the center of the room. The wooden lid was not on the box when we found it. We found the printer contraption on the same day, about in the same location. Two days later, we found the lid of the box and the wheels for what appears to be the second machine [M3131]. We spent another week or so cleaning out the Radio Room and found a couple of coffee cups, a Perrier water bottle, a flashlight, two ceramic insulators used on the external radio antenna and other miscellaneous junk.

If you are familiar with the configuration of the interior of a Type VII U-boat, you know that the captain's quarters [C] were on the port side just across the aisle from the Radio Room. Since the U-85 is sitting in the bottom with about a 30 degree heel to starboard, all the lockers in the captain's quarters have broken loose and fallen into the debris in the aisle. A lot of this is still buried under mud and sand, and it is an area of future opportunity."

A year later - on 22 August 2002  - the rest of Enigma M3131 was recovered. Again - as described by diver Roger Hunting:

"The second Enigma was located in the Radio Room, just like M2946. As you recall, we had recovered the rotors and wooden lid of M3131 shortly after recovering M2946 on July 3, 2001, but the rest of the machine was not found during the summer of 2001. At that time we were using a 4" diameter dredge and we had removed about as much as we could out of the Radio Room. The only remaining mud was at the very low side of the room, remembering that the submarine has a 40 degree list to starboard. We had reached a cabinet along the hull and assumed that the cabinet went all the way to the floor. It was difficult getting down in that portion of the room since you almost had to be standing on you head to reach the far corner. It is interesting that on the outside of the submarine the sand bottom registers 100 feet, yet when we were at the low side of the Radio Room we were reaching 107 feet.  In addition to being difficult to reach, the low pocket in the Radio Room contained lots of debris (remains of cabinetry, electrical parts, wiring, etc.) that kept plugging up the 4" dredge pipe. So we left the last remaining mud and gave up on finding the second Enigma. We moved our dredge pipe from the Radio Room to the Galley area toward the end of the summer of 2001 and recovered several pieces of silverware and a few coffee cups and saucers. At the beginning of the 2002 dive season we increased the dredge pipe diameter to 6" and were able to handle much larger pieces of debris without plugging. We did more dredging in the Galley and then moved to the Forward Torpedo Room.

We felt fairly certain that the M3131 was still in the last remaining pile of mud in the Radio Room. In July we moved our dredge back to the Radio Room for one last shot at the remaining mud. The 6" pipe worked well and in no time, we discovered that what we thought was a cabinet was a counter top. Down under that counter, at the very lowest part of the room, was the second machine. It took only three dives to finish the job that we gave up on the previous summer".

Details of the recovery are also given in a paper: 'The  Enigmas - and Other Recovered Artefacts - of U-85', Hamer, David H., Cryptologia, Vol. XXVII(2), April 2003, pp. 97-110

A gallery of photographs of recovered items may be seen by clicking here.


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