Logbook II – Junkers 52 Aircraft – Second mission (May 25th – June 6th 2009)
First day (May 25th 2009)
Today is the first day of the S/S Burdigala Project which had been prepared over many months, certainly did not unfold as planned. Although the mission had been studied systematically and in detail, various external factors led to its non-start. Two of these factors are deemed as catalytic for the next stages of our mission.
The first concerns the tragic death of diver Carl Spencer on 24th May 2009, just a day before the start of the S/S Burdigala Project. The death of Carl, who participated in this year’s mission to the HMHS Britannic shipwreck, threw into a state of heavy mourning the island of Kea and especially the divers of the Britannic mission and of our own team.
The second factor pertains to a last minute problem about the ownership status, placing our mission on hold by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage and the legal adviser of the Ministry of Culture. As we were informed, due to the new data and the identification of the former “Unknown Shipwreck Kea” as the S/S Burdigala, ownership rights of the shipwreck deserves further investigation.
These factors combined with the ban of any kind of diving activity in the northern Kea imposed by the Port Authority because of the diving accident, led to the cancellation of our planned dives. Until the settlement of these problems and seeking of their solutions, we are forced to abide by the instructions of the authorities, and just wait. We intend to provide an update and more details on the evolution of our expedition in the coming days.
Thanking you for your patience, your understanding and your continued support.
The S/S Burdigala Project Team.
Second day (May 26th 2009)
The second day of the S/S Burdigala Project, commenced with a dash visit to the Port Authority of Lavrion. The outcome of the meeting with the harbor masters was positive and thus we are scheduling for tomorrow the first dive of the mission seeking to find “The Unknown Aircraft of Kea” wreck, which was accidentally side scanned by the Kea Dive Expedition team during last year’s mission.
The aircraft, which is estimated to have a wing span of approximately 26 meters and a fuselage length of around 20 meters, is submerged at a depth ranging between 62 to 65 meters. Apart from a very good image rendering by the side scan sonar by the University of Patras, we have no other information. Hopefully tomorrow will be able to dive and shoot the first photographs which will probably lead to its identification.
Although the mood is still heavy on Kea island by the loss of Carl Spencer, resulting in a revocation of the diving permit by the Greek authorities for the “Britannic 2009” mission, the fact that tomorrow we are set to dive the wreck of an unknown aircraft, rejuvenates our hopes for a quick settlement of the ownership issue concerning the S/S Burdigala, which will allow us to continue our research by being allowed to dive this faboulous shipwreck.
We hope that tomorrow will be able to inform you about the status of the unknown aircraft and to post few first pictures.
Third day (May 27th 2009)
Today is the third day of the mission and finally we are set to dive!
We started by early morning from Korissia, the port of Kea, towards the spot where we had located the sunken aircraft during the Kea Dive Expedition in September 2008. The weather was relatively good with northeast winds of about three Beauforts and slightly choppy seas. After a good time of search around and about the coordinates, we noticed a slight rise of the sea bottom and marked this point on the chart-plotter and by positioning a dive line and a buoy. The first dive group consisting of Basil Mavros, Damianos Veropoulos and Dimitri Galon prepared to dive. The aim was to verify whether the slight rise of the sea bottom indicated by the echo sounder was indeed the airplane we were seeking to find.
The first group dived to 65 meters depth noticing that due to the strong currents of about three knots, the dive line had dragged from its original point. According to plan a line from the emergency spool reel was tied at the end of the dive line; Damianos using the sea-scooter extended this line to 30 meters and started a circular survey. Soon enough he located the aircraft and fetched the other two divers to the desired spot.
The aircraft lays upright on sandy bottom with a south-west axis while the deepest point is at 68 meters; its condition is impeccable. There is no break at any point, nor missing of any part; it is a three engined plane, the nasal engine tilting downwards toward the seabed but remains attached to the fuselage. The plane was armored, we spotted a machine gun positioned at the upper part of the fuselage where also there is a big size hatch opening, its lid fallen by the left side to the bottom. Probably the passengers escaped through this hatch after ditching the airplane into the sea.
Unfortunately by spending extra time for searching to locate the aircraft in conjunction with the dive plan, we were left with very little spare time allowing us to penetrate inside the wreck. Hopefully that will take place in the coming days.
Upon surfacing, the first dive team found that the wind had increased considerably reaching the intensity of six Beauforts. The task of boarding the team members and equipment back to the diving boat became perhaps the most difficult part of the day. The surface support group along with the safety diver, who all had shared the responsibility of supporting the divers, had coped impeccably with excessive consistency their difficult role.
The change of weather and the strong wind, unfortunately, led to the cancellation of the next afternoon dive which was scheduled for the second diving team. We hope that in the coming days the weather conditions will improve, allowing us to continue our research in the considered as UNKNOWN aircraft of Kea.
Fourth day (May 28th 2009)
The strong northeast wind which prevented us from the afternoon dive of the previous day (Wednesday), prevails today as well. The wind intensity remained constant between five to six Beauforts. Taking advantage of a no-dive day, our team prepared thoroughly for the next day (Friday), as the weather forecast provided much improved weather conditions. Besides, tomorrow is a milestone day for us because we await the decision by the Review Board of the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture pertaining to our mission, seeking to belatedly resolve the issue of ownership of the S/S Burdigala shipwreck. Hopefully everything will go well.
Fifth day (May 29th 2009)
Today we woke up very early, at six o’clock, as the weather conditions had improved since the evening of the previous day. With a mirror-like sea surface and no wind at all, we cast-off heading to the airplane dive point. The aim of today’s mission is to penetrate inside the aircraft fuselage for further investigation. The first diving team, composed by John Protopappas, George Vandoros and Stavros Aposporis, got ito the water by eight o’clock. John Protopappas made the first penetration and immediately after the team had sucessfully surfaced, the second diving team, composed by Basil Mavros, Damianos Veropoulos and Dimitri Galon dived, while Dimitri made the second penetration of the day.
During this penetration the radio transmitter station was located while the gyroscopic mechanism of the aft machine gun was also observed. In addition, on the starboard side of the main cabin, just behind the cockpit entrance, the radio operator’s station was found along with its seat. Needless to say, we will need more time in order to identify the unknown aircraft, while further details should be evaluated by aviation histroy experts with whom our group is in constant contact. One of these details pertains to the metal aircraft identification plate which is likely to be located in the aircraft’s port side, below the cockpit coaming. By further external investigation we established that all three propellers of the engines have not been bent, an indication from which we can possibly draw the conclusion that during the sea landing the engines were not operating.
During the course of the day we received notice both from the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage and the Sea Antiquities Ephorate in relation to the main objective of our diving mission, the shipwreck S/S Burdigala. Unfortunately for us, the Board which supposedly would review and decide about the issue raised concerning the ownership of the shipwrecked vessel, was not in quorum, hence the decision was moved for next Thursday, 4th June 2009. Unfortunately the limited time available away from jobs and families combined by the limited economic resources of our amateur diver mission members, precludes the possibility of our team to remain in Kea indefinitely awaiting for a possible positive resolution by the bureaucracy. In view of such adverse circumstances we have decided to reschedule the S/S Burdigala Project for the Spring of 2010. However, the team will remain in Kea for few more days, diving and exploring the unknown aircraft aiming to collect all the material needed for its identification. At the end of the mission we will publish a short chronological report, listing not only the causes but also the problems encountered with the Greek Authorities during the preparation of the S/S Burdigala Project.
We hope that our readers despite their certain disappointment about the non-realization of our long and meticoulously planned dives on the S/S Burdigala shipwreck, will find a similar interest in the description and photos from diving into “The Unknown Aircraft of Kea”.
Thanking you for your continued support and confidence in us.
Sixth day (May 30th 2009)
The main objective today was to search and find the plate bearing the Aircraft Identification Number which would provide manufacturing details, dates etc, likely to be in German language. The final answer pertaining to the positive identification of course will be given by aviation specialists after our field research operations are completed. The serial number of aircraft construction, known as Werknummer, is a unique number and pertains to the identity of the airplane. Locating this tag will help us to further our research, which aims not only to identify the aircraft but also to list the names of the crew aboard during her last mission before ditching into the Kea blue waters.
After a systematic search by the two diving teams, consisting of Basil Mavros, John Protoppapas, George Vandoros, Damianos Veropoulos, Dimitri Galon and Stavros Aposporis, the tag with the serial number was located and cleaned from marine growth with great care. It was positioned externally under the cockpit coaming on the port side of the fuselage. Unfortunately due to a prolonged stay under seawater, the production numbers are no longer legible perhaps due to electrolysis. Our aviation experts will investigate any other possibilities for locating serial numbers which will allow us to positively identify the sunken aircraft.
Having received initial reactions from aviation experst, it is becoming apparent that this aircraft for which we suspect its type and identity, is considered to be as one of the most well-preserved aircraft of this type which has so far been fdiscovered. The great interest in the discovery and research has surpassed the Greek borders, since we have received many comments from foreign countries and especially so from Germany. We hope that our research efforth will bear results, revealing the identification number, the crew names and the purpose of her last mission. We will however continue to seek additional information during our next dives.
One of the objectives of the next dive is to penetrate and photograph in the very narrow aft area of the machine gun in conjunction with further research data into the main cabin area of the aircraft.
Seventh day (May 31st 2009)
The strong wind prevented us today from diving. The day was nevertheless full and we also had the opportunity to visit the Research Vessel Cdt. Fourcault after the kind invitation made to our team by the captain. During our visit we had the opportunity to see many sections around the ship, its equipment, the working conditions of the research team of the HMHS Britannic 2009 Mission and the advanced diving equipment used.
Aboard the Cdt. Fourcault, which is an amazing ship, the atmosphere of frustration that exists among the International research and documentary production team was very much evident, especially so after the accident of Carl Spencer and the ensuing suspension of all diving operations by the Greek authorities as a result of this accident. It is indeed quite sad to see such a high level mission, which is influenced not only by the names of the best divers worldwide, but is also considered as a model and a leading professional organization, to be brought to a stand-still due to legal and bureaucratic slowdowns.
The visit aboard the Cdt. Fourcault gave us the opportunity to observe and to examine the techniques used by this formidable multi ethnic mission, during their first dives to the Britannic and to check out closely the equipment used by the members of the mission. It was a day full of interest and contact with the world’s top diving team, a catalytic factor for us. We thank the Cdt. Fourcault team for their hospitality.
Eighth day (June 1st 2009)
The search on the outer side of the fuselage for the location of yet another identification plate bearing the construction number details unfortunately was not sucessful. This, coupled with the long penetration inside the wreck forced us to move in the cabin where John Protopappas identified the two steering columns and their fallen wheels on the pilots’ seats. In this dive we were accompanied by a curious grouper who seems to have made the interior of tha aircraft his home. George Vandoros filmed video throughout the dive which will be posted in the future, after evaluation and the necessary editing, on a dedicated website which will be constructed about the hitherto unknown aircraft Kea. The data we have obtained so far by the field research, combined with the components provided to us by our aviation experts and with the historical knowledge of our team have not only illustrated the type of aircraft but also the period during which it operated. After our dive tomorrow, which will probably be the last, we will announce our personal opinion about the type and model of the aircraft.
The second dive group consisting of Basil Mavros, Lazaros Galonis and Stavros Apospori continued the search for locating the identification number of the aircraft in the area below the cockpit, which is touching upon the sandy sea bottom. The search that has proved very difficult because the space allowing for the divers to move is very limited. A more thorough investigation was carried out under the wings of the aircraft already by our first dive, identifying the landing tires of the airplane which are in very good condition. On the outer side of the left wing we found a smaller wheel, which probably comes from the tail wheel. In addition we carefully examined a propeller bearing mechanism, which was noticed by the previous dive seated on the right wing of the aircraft, next to the fuselage. Probably is an emergency wind generator or an a wind generator for the wireless radio.
Ninth day (June 2nd 2009)
The last day of our 2009 mission has finally arrived. The obstacles encountered with the Greek authorities prevented us from diving the main target of our investigation, the ocean liner S/S Burdigala, former S/S Kaiser Friedrich, yet the team completed successfully diving our second research subject, “The unknown aircraft of Kea“. Under the circumstances we decided to end the mission few days earlier than planned and resume it in the spring of 2010, by when we wholeheartedtly anticipate that the issue of ownership of the S/S Burdigala shipwreck would have been settled.
While our initial disappointment was great, being in a position to dive the second object, the aircraft, whose identification details we will announce in the coming days, we are rewarded not only by a rich experience but also by many key moments of awe and shock. From the first to the last dive we made, we were constantly impressed by the delicate balance of aesthetic beauty, history and the sea environment. We are certain that other divers would like to visit in the future this magnificent aircraft wreck. We would like to ask them to respect and protect her so that she remains unchanged for many years.
Today’s dive was done only by the first group, consisting of Yiannis Protopappas, George Vandoros and Dimitri Galon, having as objectives the continuation of the field search and preparation for removing the dive line and buoy markers which was secured at a distance of ten meters from the nasal engine of the aircraft. The search focused again around seeking to find the serial number (Werknummer), in order to cross check it with the serial number obtained by a systematic survey carried out by members of our team. This number was also the result of searches conducted by independent historians in Greece and abroad. Despite the debilitating efforts by our team of divers to discover all these days the tag bearing the serial number, such was not achieved. The final solution came from elsewhere. Until the completion of the fundamental research and the final announcement of “The unknown aircraft of Kea’s” identity in the coming days, we summarize in this preliminary report those items which proved decisive and catalytic for her identification. We would like to give to our readers a little taste of the aircraft’s anticipated identity. As a preveiw here are some elements:
Werknummer 6590 – Erste Gruppe / Transportgeschwader 4 – Kalamaki / Griechenland.
Apart from the field search conducted around the fuselage, the divers explored a wider area around the wreck, seeking to find any additional information which could be complementary toward her identification. Nevertheless, apart from what was already known nothing else was added.
After completing the dive and raising the lines, we bid farewell to this region whcih for so many days had been our host and made it to the port of Korissia. Surrounded by the vast blue sea as far as the eye can see, keeping the hidden secrets of so many ships lost here in the Kea channel, as the HMHS Britannic, the S/S Burdigala, the S/S Theophile Gautier the S/S Citta di Tripoli and the recently discovered “unknown aircraft of Kea“. We know now that soon we will be back here again, to continue our dives in this excellent area, which can easily be described as the passage and neighborhood of shipwrecks.
On Tuesday, 26 May 2009, after submitting a letter to the Port Authority of Lavrion, we prepared to dive the until then unknown aircraft which we had found seven months earlier, during the Kea Dive Expedition operations. By studying the size, shape and dimentions of the aircraft, which was imaged by the side scan sonar of the University of Patras, had led us to presume that it probably involved a Junkers 52 German aircraft. With this scenario in our luggage and having as reference the history of warfare in the Aegean during the Second World War, we began to approach and to highlight the unknown aircraft of Kea. This part of our research was secondary for our group as the main research subject was about the sinking of the ocean liner S/S Burdigala. Due to various circumstances, organizational and time-consuming, we intend to revert in the near future with a comprehensive reference about this issue, explaining why we were unable to dive the shipwreck of S/S Burdigala. The result was, rightly or wrongly, to dive solely into the unknown aircraft exclusively of Kea, which became the main diving and research topic of our 2009 mission. Hence we tried to take full advantage of our time and make as many dives to the wreck of the aircraft in order to capture images from all angles, creating the conditions for a monographic approach.
Already by the first ten minutes of our first dive on the unknown aircraft, which took place on Wednesday 27 May 2009, was enough to confirm the original scenario of our team. The unknown aircraft was indeed a Junkers 52, very well preserved, with all her original equipment and entirely untouched. As it was later established, represents a case of one of the better aircrafts found of this type, of which a total of four are found in Greek waters. The immediate questions which were raised from the field research were:
1. From what period of World War II, does this aircraft belong?
2. Which was her squadron and what was her mission during the ditching and eventual sinking?
3. By what cause was she forced to belly land on the Kea waters?
4. Who were the victims and if so how many?
In order to answer these questions it would be necessary to first identify the aircraft, a difficult task, as the only means of positive identification is by the number of construction (Werknummer) which is registered on a metal tag mounted outside the fuselage. Together with our diving team several other collaborators, many of whom are prominent researchers, historians, in Greece and abroad, were mobilised to seek more historical information which could assist us during our fieldwork. These investigations, soon yielded results. Although our team found the tag but due to electrolysis no numbers or letters were visible as the airplane had been resting for many years in the water, the main catalytic information came from elsewhere and quite unexpectedly . The identity of Kea’s “Tante Ju” (the name comes from “Auntie Ju”, affectionate German nick name which the pilots and parachutists had given to the Junker 52’s), was discovered through a routine log report filed by a search and rescue German Dornier 24 (Werknummer 3214 ), which since the 13th of August 1943 belonged to the German Sea Rescue Squadron 7 (Seenotstaffel 7), located in Faliro, Athens area.
According to this entry, the rescuing Dornier 24 on 6th September 1943, crewed by Leutnant Pfaffendorf, Oberfeldwebel Becker, Feldwebel Steinbock, Feldwebel Bohnke, Obergefreiter Rausch and Feldwebel Lind, took part in a search and rescue operation involving a missing Junkers 52, bearing the construction number (Werknummer) 6590, of the I/TG 4, i.e. the first group (I = Erste Gruppe) of Transport Wing 4 (TG 4 = Transportgeschwader 4) which was based in Kalamaki in the Saronic Gulf (near Athens). The airplane had been lost after ditching in the northwest sea of Kea, due to fuel supply problems. Of the Junkers 52 passengers and crew, one was lost and two were wounded, all others rescued and transferred to Athens. After receiving this information, there was no doubt that this was indeed the airplane we were diving in Kea. Not only the geographic region but also the fact that the propellers of the sunken aircraft are intact, indicates that during her ditching the aircraft’s engines were not operating, a fact considered as the main cause for the sea landing of Ju 52, bearing the construction number 6590. The Transportgeschwader 4 (Transport Wing 4) was established on 4th May 1943 and consisted of four groupes (Gruppe I – IV). Commanding officer (Geschwaderkommodor) of the Trasporthgeschwader 4 was Oberstleutnant Richard Kupschus and commanding officer of the first group (Gruppe I), to which the Junkers 52 of Kea belonged, was Major Rüdiger Jakob based in Kifissia, Athens. All officers of the Wing Headquarter (Geschwaderstab) resided in the famous Hotel Cecil of Kifisia. The first and the second group (Gruppe I., II.) of the Transportgeschwader 4, as the Geschwaderstab, were disbanded in October 1944.
The three engined transport Junkers 52/3m of Kea, as is precisely this type of aircraft, represents one of the most popular types of aircraft produced in series that supported the military operations of Germany during World War II. In Greece this type of aircraft was deployed in two major combat operations, the battle of Crete in 1941, and the battle of Leros in 1943. Apart from the first major military operation in Narwik, Norway in 1940, where for the first time parachutists were dropped on a large scale, the battles of Crete and Leros were the only operations in which also German paratroopers were dropped on a large scale. Especially, the battle of Leros marked the last operation where the select corps of German paratroopers, the Fallschirmjäger were deployed.
The Junkers 52 had the following technical characteristics:
Type: transport aircraft
Crew: Three persons (two pilots and a radio operator)
Length: 18.90 meters
Wing span: 29.25 meters
Height: 4.50 meters
Wing area: 110.50 sq. meters
Weight (unladen): 6,510 kg
Maximum take-off weight: 10,990 kg
Engines: Three BMW Type 132 (nine cylinders)
Power: 660 PS each
Maximum speed: 290 kilometers per hour
Autonomy: 1,200 km
Maximum flight altitude: 6,300 meters
Weapons: One machine-gun MG 15, of 7.92 mm caliber with magazine DT 15, of 75 roundss, double drum (aircraft of Kea)
Passenger Capacity: 18 fully armed soldiers
Our investigation does not stop here; we are in cooperation with museums, historical researchers, with aviation specialists of the World War II and pilots of the German Junkers 52. We hope that our research will generate additional knowledge, which will assist us in further documenting of the aircraft found at the sea bottom of Kea. Our up to now efforts and their results will be hosted on a new website which will be frequently updated. We hope to have you near us on this journey and the charming story which begun from the sea bottom of the Aegean. Although according to our opinion, this finding in the northwest Kea waters is undoubtedly a historic aircraft of World War II, type Junkers 52/3m, it should not be overlooked that our research team is not part of an official state authority which has the direct responsibility for identifying any wreck in the Greek seas. Therefore, it is important that the identity of the Kea aircraft be regarded as unknown, until such time that the official state confirms her identity. For non-Greek readers who are not familiar with the Greek laws and regulations, and who would reasonably ponder about the aloof description by our group about what seemed indisputably to be a Junkers 52, we would like to mention that according to the Greek law and specifically according to the Government Gazette No. 1701, the only possibility we had to legally dive and explore the Junkers of Kea, was to approach and deal with it as an unknown aircraft throughout the course of our mission. We hope that such issues are understandable.
We thank you for your support and confidence and about your high interest.
The S/S Burdigala Project Team
Copyright © 2009 by D. Galon and the S/S Burdigala Project Team