THE notorious Enigma machine that Nazi Germany used to send secret messages to its forces across Europe has been discovered in the depths of the Baltic Sea.
The device was used by Axis powers to encode military commands, and copies of it were highly-prized by the Allies, who needed its parts to decrypt intercepted messages.
Now one of the elusive machines has been found on the seabed, after it was stumbled upon during an operation to protect marine life from abandoned fishing nets.
Gabriele Dederer from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which hired the divers, said it was a discovery unlike any other.
“The WWF has been working for many years to rid the Baltic Sea of dangerous ghost nets,” she said.
“We regularly find larger objects on which the nets get tangled underwater.
“Such so-called ‘hook points’ are often tree trunks or stones. The Enigma is by far the most exciting historic find.”
The machine was recovered from the bottom of Gelting Bay in northern Germany.
It was found after Submaris, a company based in Kiel, used side-viewing sonar technology to identify the net it was caught in.
Florian Huber, a diver with Submaris, said the machine was most likely sent to its watery resting place in May 1945.
In that month, 47 German U-boats were scuttled in Gelting Bay by crewmen determined not to let them fall into the hands of the Allies.
“We suspect that our Enigma went overboard in the course of this event,” said Mr Huber.
He added that copies of the machine are now “extremely rare” and “only a few specimens are available in German museums”.
“As an underwater archaeologist, I have already made many exciting and strange finds,” he continued.
“However, I didn’t dream that we would once find an Enigma machine.
“It was a grey November day I will not forget so soon.”
The newly-discovered Enigma has now been sent to the restoration workshop at the Museum of Archaeology in Schleswig for preservation and further examination.
The WWF, which has released an app showing the location of suspected ghost nets, called on any divers making use of the data to respect historical artefacts.
“Should further archaeological finds come up, we would like to point out that there is a legal obligation to report them, as this could be underwater cultural heritage,” said Gabriele.
Abandoned or lost fishing nets, known as ghost nets, represent a deadly trap to fish, marine mammals and sea birds, and are another form of sea pollution.
The Enigma was a machine used by the German armed forces to send encrypted messages securely.
Allied code-breakers spent years trying to crack the "unbreakable" Enigma code during World War 2, eventually doing so at Bletchley Park in what is now Milton Keynes.
The breakthrough led by mathematician Alan Turing is credited with shortening the war by two years.
Turing was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2014 film The Imitation Game.
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