Members of The Shipwreck Expeditions Association conducted the first exploration of the wreck of the ORP Kujawiak in June of 2015.
They brought home from Malta unique video footage and photos of the Kujawiak, which lies at a depth of 100 meters. This year, the team has returned for another exploratory expedition. Members of this third international expedition to Malta (5-19 June, 2016) have set themselves the task, among others, of finding “the heart of the ship” – the ship’s bell. The 14 person team consists of four Poles – Roman Zajder, Peter Wytykowski, Mariusz Borowiak, and Robert Piasta – as well as divers and researchers from Australia, the United States, England, Italy, and Malta.
On June 1, at the Zwiastowania Pańskiego church in Rąbień, near Lodz, Holy Mass was celebrated for the souls of the 13 fallen sailors of the escort destroyer ORP Kujawiak, who died on June 16, 1942 near the coast of Malta. A solemn devotion was presided over by parish priest Fr. Jarosław Jurga.
Before departing for Malta, team members Roman Zajder, Peter Wytykowski (the first to dive on the wreck in 73 years since the tragic events), Mariusz Borowiak, and Peter Kardasz, detoured to the British National Archives in Kew, near London, to conduct new archival research. Over three long days, they successfully located and painstakingly imaged almost 1,500 unique documents pertaining to the history of the Polish Navy during the Second World War.
However, the researchers’ greatest success was in finding documents which, after analysis, will help to unravel one of the greatest Polish naval mysteries of the twentieth century! The results will be sensational!
During their stay in the U.K., the researchers also met with and interviewed 99-year-old Kazimierz Stefankiewicz, the last surviving witness of the sinking of the Kujawiak.
The quiet hero spoke on video of the course of his service during the years 1942-1946. Footage of his account will be used in a documentary to be produced by the Shipwreck Expeditions Association.
On the first day of the 2016 expedition, participants met at the University of Malta’s Valletta campus for a briefing led by Dr. Timmy Gambin, Senior Lecturer of the Department of Classics and Archaeology.
During this briefing, Dr. Gambin presented a work plan for the next two weeks of diving and the team discussed guidelines and contingency procedures with the safety officers.
These plans included acclimatization dives to depths of 20-40 meters on 7 June prior to initiating dives to the wreck. The first actual descent to the wreck to begin searching for the ship’s bell was attempted on 8 June. After arriving at the wreck site of the Kujawiak – using a safety speedboat in addition to the boat which served 2015 expedition – divers found no trace of the subsurface buoys holding the lines which had been attached to the stern of the ship. It is possible that the buoys had flooded and sunk together with the lines. As a result, the dive support team were forced to spend the day’s allocated in-water time constructing a new down-line, and searchers were unable to descend to the Kujawiak. The divers will return to the wreck on 9 June to begin their search.