09:22 GMT10 May 2021
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    The Enigma machine is an encryption device developed and used extensively by the Nazi military in the 20th century to protect commercial, diplomatic and military communications. The devices were regularly targeted by cryptographers of the Nazis' adversaries during the conflict.

    According to The Times, the wartime machine was spotted by German divers working for the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to locate “ghost nets” left behind by trawlers. The team had been surveying the waters from a motorized catamaran when their sonar system picked up an unusual signal Gelting Bay, near the German Baltic coast and Danish border. 

    Gelting Bay is a curve of the coastline of the Baltic Sea on the northeastern coast of the German region of Anglia at the exit to the Flensburg Fjord near the town of Gelting.

    While the team initially thought they had picked up a typewriter entangled in a net on the seabed of the bay, underwater archaeologist Florian Huber quickly realized the historical significance of the discovery, reports Reuters
    Divers came across the machine in the Baltic while documenting “ghost nets” discarded by trawlers.
    EPA/Christian Howe
    Divers came across the machine in the Baltic while documenting “ghost nets” discarded by trawlers.

    “I’ve made many exciting and strange discoveries in the past 20 years. But I never dreamt that we would one day find one of the legendary Enigma machines,” Huber said. 

    The machine, which looks like a typewriter, featured a keyboard and wheels which scrambled messages. "Although several hundred thousand machines were produced, only a few hundred are known to exist," Reuters noted. "They sell at auction for tens of thousands of euros." 

    (L-R) Divers and underwater archaeologists Christian Howe, Florian Huber and Uli Kunz pose with a rare Enigma cipher machine they found on the seabed of Gelting Bay and it was used by the Nazi military during World War Two, near Flensburg, Germany November 11, 2020.
    Reuters/Christian Howe
    (L-R) Divers and underwater archaeologists Christian Howe, Florian Huber and Uli Kunz pose with a rare Enigma cipher machine they found on the seabed of Gelting Bay and it was used by the Nazi military during World War Two, near Flensburg, Germany November 11, 2020.
    The Nazi military used the Enigma devices to send and receive secret messages during World War II; however, British cryptographers cracked the code the machines used, providing the Allies a crucial edge in the naval struggle to control the Atlantic Ocean.

    A British team led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park code-breaking center is credited with cracking the Enigma machine's code, shortening the war and saving many thousands of lives, according to Reuters. 

    A Nazi Enigma machine.
    BBC
    A Nazi Enigma machine.
    The device the divers found is believed to have been thrown into the water in the days leading up to Nazi Germany’s surrender in May 1945, when dozens of submarines were scuttled in Gelting Bay so that they would not fall into Allied hands. 

    Crews of about 50 submarines followed the order to sink their ships in the bay, and destroying encryption devices was part of the order, notes Reuters. 

    "We suspect our Enigma went overboard in the course of this event," said Huber, who works for the Kiel-based company Submaris, which leads underwater research missions.

    A German submarine U-278 in Atlantic waters.
    Wikimedia Commons
    A German submarine U-278 in Atlantic waters.
    Overall, the Germans sank more than 200 of their own submarines in the North and Baltic Seas at the close of World War II.

    The recovered Enigma machine will be given to the archaeology museum in Schleswig, according to Reuters. 

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    Tags:
    underwater, divers, diving, WWII, WW2, Baltic, Baltic Sea, Denmark, Germany
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