Recently I wrote about an Enigma encryption machine that showed up in a pigsty. The argument back then surely was nobody would find it.
Now we can add a new twist to the list of places thought safe for disposal: an Enigma was found in the Baltic sea.
“A colleague swam up and said: there’s a net there with an old typewriter in it,” Florian Huber, the lead diver, told the DPA news agency.
The team quickly realised they had stumbled across an historic artefact and alerted the authorities.
Dr Ulf Ickerodt, the head of the state archaeological office in Schleswig-Holstein, said the machine would be restored by experts at the state’s archaeology museum.
The delicate process, including a thorough desalination process after seven decades in the Baltic seabed, “will take about a year”, he said.
After that, the machine will go on display at the museum.
Dr Jann Witt, a historian from the German Naval Association, told DPA he believed the machine, which has three rotors, was thrown overboard from a German warship in the final days of the war.
As an aside, in WWI the Germans tried to throw their codebook overboard and it was almost immediately recovered.
One of her four copies of the Signalbuch der Kasierlichen Marine (SKM), the German navy codebook, was burnt and two thrown overboard. However, the Russians recovered the latter two from the sea and the fourth from the captain’s safe.
One would think they’d know better by WWII, although to be fair the Enigma sank and a codebook floated.
Actually, as another aside, when the Germans in WWI put their secrets in something that would sink it also was recovered.
The British obtained the third German naval codebook, the Verkehrsbuch (VB), when a trawler caught a lead-lined chest on 30 November. It had been thrown overboard by a German destroyer sunk on 17 October.
And as a general reminder, it was the Polish mathematicians who intercepted and systematically cracked the Nazi encryption machines before WWII started, not the British.
The Polish work was disbelieved by the British until Germany invaded Poland and all the dynamics changed. Details of cracking the machines had to be necessarily dumped by the fleeing Polish (via France) onto the ungrateful and arrogant British intelligence operations.