History expert solves mystery surrounding ship made of CONCRETE following decades of speculation

Regarded as one of the greatest curiosities of North-Western Poland, leading authority in the field Jan Iwańczuk says he has now found the answer to what the 90-metre WWII vessel was used for. Marcin Bielecki/PAP

The remains of one of the few concrete ships to survive WWII has come under scrutiny after a local history expert said that the boat has been wrongly identified for the last few decades.

Regarded as one of the greatest curiosities of North-Western Poland, the 90-metre vessel found in Lake Dąbie is believed to have been completed in 1944 in what is now Darłowo.

Marcin Bielecki/PAP

Found on Lake Dąbie, the concrete ship is believed to have been completed in 1944 in what is now Darłowo.Marcin Bielecki/PAP

With steel lacking at this late stage of the war, the ship was part of a wider project approved by Albert Speer to find alternate solutions to the Third Reich’s raw material crisis.

Constructed from ferrocement, the boat is thought to have been intended to handle the transportation of synthetic gasoline and is believed to have been built as part of a concrete fleet consisting of approximately 50 ships.

With steel lacking at this late stage of the war, the ship was part of a wider project approved by Hitler’s Armaments and War Production Minister Albert Speer to find alternate solutions to the Third Reich’s raw material crisis.Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-V00555-3 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Subject to conflicting reports, for years history enthusiasts had assumed the boat was the Ulrich Finsterwalde, one of two near-identical vessels kitted out in the Vulcan shipyard in Szczecin.

With so much documentation missing, the full story of the tanker has baffled historians, though most had seemed to agree that the boat was sunk in 1944 before being salvaged and towed for repair at the Klotz-Werft shipyard in Szczecin.

Marcin Bielecki/PAP

Marcin Bielecki/PAP

Constructed from ferrocement, the boat is thought to have been intended to handle the transportation of synthetic gasoline and is believed to have been built as part of a concrete fleet consisting of approximately 50 ships.Marcin Bielecki/PAP

What has now become apparent is that after being sunk, the Ulrich Finsterwalde was subsequently raised in 1948. Briefly, plans were mooted to turn it into a lighthouse, but these never bore fruit.

Instead, the ship was allowed to slide into ruin before being towed to Święta Kępa in 1970 and scuttled once and for all.

K. Komorowski/ Wiki/ Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike 3.0 licence

For years history enthusiasts had assumed the boat was the Ulrich Finsterwalde, one of two near-identical vessels kitted out in the Vulcan shipyard in Szczecin, and later sunk. Sailforum.pl

Which leaves the question, just what is the concrete monstrosity that sits on Lake Dąbie.

According to Jan Iwańczuk, the leading authority in this field, it is an un-christened ship that went under the code name of D-62.

According to leading authority Jan Iwańczuk, the vessel is an un-christened ship that went under the code name of D-62.Robert Stachnik / Wiki/ Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike 3.0 licence

Known to have first “entered the water” on August 19th 1944, work on the boat was never completed during wartime, and it was only after it fell into Russian hands that it found itself serving a purpose as a floating warehouse aiding in the transport of Swedish iron ore.

Still, this function was short-lived. 

Known to have first “entered the water” on August 19th 1944, work on the boat was never completed during wartime, and it was only after it fell into Russian hands that it found itself serving a purpose as a floating warehouse aiding in the transport of Swedish iron ore.Institute of Western Poznan

Loaded with 1,200 tons of cargo, the boat began unexpectedly taking on water on the evening on December 19-20th, 1947. 

Attempts to repair the leak proved futile, and the concrete megalith was steered to rest on a bank of silt before being sunk the following night.

There it remained for over 15-years when, due to the safety threat it posed to other seafaring traffic, it was raised in April 1975 and transported to its current location.

Marcin Bielecki/PAP

Now a cult attraction, at one stage plans were discussed to turn its holds into a swimming pool but these were abandoned after they proved technically impractical.Marcin Bielecki

Now a cult attraction, at one stage plans were discussed to turn its holds into a swimming pool. 

These were abandoned after they proved technically impractical, however, this remarkable maritime phantom has still managed to fill several remarkable social functions.

A common stop off among sailors and kayakers, D-62 has also played host to several rock and jazz concerts in recent times.