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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 14:02 GMT
Divers recover piece of Graf Spee
A crane pulls up the submerged upper part of the Graf Spee telemeter
Poor weather conditions have hampered the recovery project
A team of divers has recovered a key piece of the German World War II battleship Graf Spee from the mouth of the River Plate in Uruguay.

Salvage experts managed to re-float the ship's range-finding equipment, which weighs 27 metric tons.

It is the first significant part of the ship to be recovered in the operation after several failed attempts.

The ship was sunk more than 60 years ago by its captain to keep it from falling into enemy hands.

I am looking at the range finder and it is just fabulous
Alfredo Etchegaray

The salvage team have positioned a floating crane 7 km (4 miles) out to sea from Montevideo.

The first attempt to raise the equipment - known as a telemeter - failed earlier in the day when the supporting cables snapped and the piece crashed back into the water.

But the team managed to overcome tricky currents and winds to raise it.

"I am looking at the range finder and it is just fabulous," project spokesman Alfredo Etchegaray told Reuters news agency.

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 during the Battle of the River Plate it received several direct hits and took refuge in Montevideo harbour.

Uruguay, under diplomatic pressure from Britain, ordered the Graf Spee out to sea. And there she was scuttled by her captain, Hans Langsdorff.

Captain Langsdorff committed suicide in a Buenos Aires naval camp three days later.

The ship now lies in waters no deeper than 11 metres.

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.

Work starts to raise Graf Spee
09 Feb 04  |  Americas
Bad weather delays Graf Spee dive
05 Feb 04  |  Americas

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