Hunt for the Kaiser's Missing Superfleet

CGI image of SMS Scharnhorst exploding and sinking in WW1 | Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT)
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In December 2014, the Trust funded an expedition to try and find four German warships sunk by Vice-Admiral Sturdee’s Royal Navy task force in 1914.  Led by Falkland-born marine archaeologist, Mensun Bound, a crew of 12 set sail in the former cold war spy ship, Endeavour, on 12th December 2014.

After 17 weeks at sea, during which time the Endeavour was forced to return to Stanley by fierce storms and bad weather, the mission had to be aborted, empty handed, on April 12th 2015.

Almost five years to the day after the ending of the first expedition, on April 7th 2019, Mensun was back in the Falklands looking for the lost war ships again.  This time with a bigger boat – Ocean Infinity’s Seabed Constructor – and a fleet of underwater submersibles capable of finding deep sea wrecks in a fraction of the time it used to take.  On Day 5, they found the wreck of one of the two armoured cruisers lying in 900 metres of water about 80 nautical miles from Stanley.

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The Trust spent thousands of pounds on state-of-the-art Computer Generated Graphics (CGI) to recreate the sinking of Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee’s flagship, SMS Scharnhorst, that in 1914, went down with all hands.

The find was a bittersweet moment for Mensun Bound, who had kept in close contact with Vice-Admiral von Spee’s relatives in Germany during the five years of searching. In an unusual move, he decided to break the news of the find to Count Wilhelm von Spee and his wife, Countess Lorraine von Spee, in person and show them the video of the wreck.

The Trust’s five-year long search for the Kaiser’s lost Falklands superfleet has not ended with the finding of the SMS Scharnhorst. We plan, one day, to return to find the SMS Gneisenau, the Dresden and the Nürnberg.

In the meantime Falkland Islanders and everyone else around the world are now able to learn much more about the great Battle of the Falklands and the men who fought it on December 8th 1914.

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A feature length documentary about the five-year-long search for the German warships was made for the Trust by TVT Productions, directed by Matt Wortman and produced by Charles Thompson, and versions of it have been shown by the Smithsonian Channel in Britain and America and other territories – Lost Ships: The Hunt for the Kaiser’s Superfleet.