Thursday, March 11th 2004 - 21:00 UTC

Artefacts from “Graf Spee” on display in Montevideo

A brush, a light bulb and a lens that have been resting on the seabed for 65 years are some of the objects found in the rangefinder structure of the German battleship “Graf Spee” that will be on public exhibition in Montevideo.

On Feb. 25, after 15 days of waiting and four unsuccessful tries, a team of specialists recovered the 30-ton rangefinder housing from the River Plate.

The "Graf Spee" was one of the first ships in the German navy to be equipped with radar - the rangefinder - which allowed it to measure the distance between the craft and its target, thereby greatly improving its chances of scoring a hit with its guns.

The Tourism Ministry has placed the rangefinder in front of its headquarters while it looks for an appropriate place to convert into a museum to display artefacts from the warship.

Tourism Minister Pedro Bordaberry said that on Thursday cases will be located beside the radar where objects found inside the rangefinder will be displayed. These objects include the brush of a broom, with the wood in perfect condition, a light bulb labelled "Kriegsmarine" (navy) and lenses from the radar's optical component. During the opening ceremony, Bordaberry emphasized the importance of refloating all the ships that lie at the bottom of the River Plate. "The 'Graf Spee' is of no use at the bottom of the sea. It's better to enjoy it here," he insisted.

According to the project's sponsor, Alfredo Etchegaray, the next step will be to refloat the cannons, although this is not yet possible because a special crane is required and may have to be brought from Europe, "because the cannons weigh 300 tons."

Meanwhile, the rangefinder has become a tourist attraction. On Wednesday afternoon, two German tourists who were told about the discovery and exhibition of the radar by their guide decided to include it on their itinerary.

"It's very interesting to see how well preserved it is," said Thomas Bevermann. "I love seeing it." The "Graf Spee," one of the three German craft to be dubbed "pocket battleships" because they were light, fast and well-armed, has been lying at the bottom of the estuary since it was scuttled by its captain in 1939 so it would not fall into Allied hands

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