Shipwrecked coffee beans

Diver discovers WW2 wreck

A cup of coffee more than 70 years in the making – divers brewed up coffee beans which they found sealed in the wreck of a ship which was sunk in 1942.

A perfectly-preserved bottle of dry coffee beans was brought up from the wreck of the Sulina, a Romanian cargo ship which was sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea after being struck by a Soviet torpedo during the Second World War.

Despite the ship’s violent end, the bottle of beans was salvaged with the stopper still in place.

Not content with making the extraordinary find, the divers who explored the 166-metre-long vessel decided to open the bottle and brew up the cup of coffee the world had waited 72 years to experience.

Photographer and diver Andrey Nekrasov, 42, said: “We brought up a dark green bottle, which had been floating near the ceiling of the mess cabin. We could hear something moving around inside the bottle, like beads. When we opened it up, we could smell the bitter aroma of coffee.

“We ground the beans and made coffee with them. The coffee was remarkably fresh, despite its age. The taste wasn’t perfect but it was one of the most memorable coffee breaks of my life.

“The coffee smelled very rich. The fact it had been underwater in a sealed jar meant it came with an amazing backstory, so the taste was unique and very special. I would describe the taste as ‘overcooked’, as if it had been left to stew for a long time.”

The Sulina is so perfectly preserved due to its depth. The Sulina lies at 22 metres below the surface – the height of four double-decker buses – protecting it from the impact of waves.

Other ships from the same period which were scuppered at a depth of 12 to 15 metres have been broken apart in winter storms.

Divers also found lightbulbs from the forsaken vessel which they managed to hook up to an electricity supply and bring back to life.

Mr Nekrasov said: “Many of the products found in the ship serve as excellent advertisements for the companies which produced them because they are still in good shape today.

“We brought some of the lightbulbs up from the wreck, cleaned them of salt and connected them to a light fitting. They still light up, despite having been under a pressure two or three times that of the atmosphere for more than seven decades.”

Although the Sulina was primarily a cargo ship there were 16 first-class cabins on board and it had a well-stocked wine cellar.

Mr Nekrasov said: “When we discovered the wine cellar we rubbed our hands in anticipation.

“My co-divers dug in the silt for days, only to be rewarded by several broken or empty bottles which smashed when it sank. The bottles we did manage to salvage had not aged well and now contained a strong grape vinegar.”

The Sulina, which was built in 1939 in Palermo, Italy, sank on May 29th 1942 after joining the Romanian naval fleet at the start of World War Two.

The cargo ship was part of a convoy of Romanian and German ships travelling from Constantsa, Romania to Nikolayev, Ukraine. The Sulina was carrying coal and ammunition.

The ship was hit at 9.30pm by a torpedo fired by a Soviet submarine. The captain, Victor Mikhu, had previously been alerted to foam trails in the water thought to be from a submarine periscope.

The Sulina tried evasive maneuvers but the ship was struck below the waterline on the starboard side.

Water flooded into the engine room so quickly that three mechanics on watch drowned before they could leave their posts.

In total 31 Romanians and 56 Germans were rescued from the vessel before it finally sank seven miles from the port of Odessa.

More high resolution pictures and videos are available on request. To discuss rates for using pictures and copy, contact news editor Tom Knight on 07815 004413 or tom@medavia.co.uk.

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