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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 22:38 GMT
Work starts to raise Graf Spee
Graf Spee
The Graf Spee wrought havoc among allied merchant vessels
An operation to raise the German World War II warship Graf Spee from the mouth of the River Plate in Uruguay has begun in earnest despite bad weather.

Salvage experts manoeuvred a floating crane into position while divers worked to tighten steel cables around parts of the wreckage.

The vessel was scuttled more than 60 years ago after sustaining damage in a confrontation with allied forces.

The complex recovery effort is likely to take two to three years.

Epic battle

The Graf Spee was once a symbol of German naval might. In the early days of World War II it roamed the South Atlantic, sinking as many as nine allied merchant ships.

But the vessel was scuttled by her captain after it was damaged in the Battle of the River Plate, one of the earliest and most important naval confrontations of World War ll in December 1939.

Accounts of the time say that thousands of Uruguayans witnessed the battle from cliff tops along the coast.

Now the Graf Spee lies in pieces just eight metres (26 feet) below the waters outside the Uruguayan port capital of Montevideo.

Project spokesman Hector Bado told the Associated Press that divers and team members were working in blustery winds and choppy waters in an attempt to bring up part of the ship's communications tower.

The tower held the ship's early radar system and weighs some 27 tonnes.

"Removing this piece of equipment is going to take more time than we originally anticipated," he said.

The work was due to begin last week but high winds delayed it.

The project is being financed by private investors from the US and Europe, and has the backing of the Uruguayan Government.

Once restored, the vessel is eventually expected to become a tourist attraction in Montevideo.

Bad weather delays Graf Spee dive
05 Feb 04  |  Americas

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